Bill Jay: 1940-2009

I learned this morning that Bill Jay died. When I was attending Arizona State University and majoring in photojournalism, I had to take Jay’s photo history classes as part of my schedule. If I remember correctly, the class met once a week for 2 or three hours. I have to confess it was probably the only class that I never missed.

His knowledge of early photographic processes and history was infectious. His second class also exposed me to photographers like Robert Frank, Josef Koudelka, David Hurn, Bernard Plossu and others. From Jay I discovered the world of Magnum and european reportage photography.

He and his close friend David Hurn wrote a book called “On Being A Photographer“. If you are a photo student, no matter your age, go out and buy it now. It is the one book I wish I had when I was in college. I bought it last year and I read it over and over trying to get the lessons to sink in.

I also recommend you read this essay, one of many, that is collected at Bill’s site. It is called “Life/Work. Here are two quotes that mean a great deal to me. I reflect on them often to keep me focused on what is important.

“A photograph is the end product of someone caring about something ‘out there. ’ The best photographs exude this caring attitude in a manner which is not definable but which is very evident.”

A unique style emerges in photography by ignoring it, concentrating on the subject, and allowing care, passion and knowledge to bubble to the surface through a lot of hard work over a long period of time. That is why the best photographs are truly reflective of the photographers. The pictures become extensions of the person and it is evident that a personal style has emerged, which cannot be confused with the works of any other photographer.

I also have a signed copy of his, “Photographers Photographed“. When I lived in Arizona, his daughter Juliet worked at a photo lab that I used. I brought the book in and asked her if she could get her dad to sign it. Thanks.

More obits here:

Marketing photos with Mary Virginia Swanson
The Online Photographer