Great Shot: Bill Jay

Michael Kenna © Bill Jay

Lately, I have been searching through the large archive of photographer interviews posted on this blog. While reading, I stumbled upon a 2007 Photo District News article in which, Darius Himes interviewed “the pre-eminent photo-historian and critic,” Bill Jay.

Over the course of Jay's career, he published twenty books of his photography and worked for the magazines Album, Creative Camera and finally Practical Photography. While working for Creative Camera, Jay was confronted by Tony Ray Jones who stated that "your magazine is shit, but I can see you are trying, so I have come to help." While Jay was offended by that statement, he realized that he could learn from Jones and included him in the magazine. Unfortunately, Jones had leukemia and passed away at a young age. This spurred Jay into the idea of taking snapshots of the photographers he worked with for a visual diary.

From 1968 through 2006 Jay photographed other photographers, often while they were working. As I looked through Jay's online archive, I noticed a picture of Micheal Kenna which was taken in 1983. I was immediately intrigued by this photograph because of the quirkiness of the scene in which Kenna and a parrot are having a stare-down. To fully understand why I find this interesting I first have to give you a bit of my own understanding of Kenna. As my previous blog entry stated, my work has been heavily influenced by Kenna's photography. Yet, in the time since I had found Kenna's images, I have never seen this side of him. I had always taken him for a serious natured person. His photographs do not have the sense of playfulness that is present within Jay's photograph. While Jay's photographs might be considered snapshots, they do have a deeper meaning besides being purely documentary. They show a glimpse of the photographer who is normally hidden behind their camera and are known because of the content in their images.

To see more of Bill Jay's photographs click the link below.

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