Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Bill Jay, 1940 - 2009

Bill Jay passed away the other day. I never met him, but he still managed to have a profound effect on me, my writing, and my photography. He was probably best known at this time for his column in LensWork magazine called EndNotes. EndNotes was his random, sometimes stream of consciousness, musings about the state of the art of photography—occasionally funny, sometimes off topic, always fascinating. Early in his career, Bill was the founding editor of Creative Camera Magazine, a very influential British photography magazine. He was born in Britain. He wrote hundreds of articles on the subject and published more than a dozen books about photography. Eventually, he moved to the United States and founded the Photographic Studies Department at Arizona State University. He retired earlier this year and had just moved to Costa Rica. Bill Jay died in his sleep just the other day.

It is my hope that Bill will be remembered by future generations of photographers because of one particular book he wrote. It is a book he co-wrote with David Hurn called Being a Photographer. There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of photography manuals and how-to’s that have been published over the years, but this book is special. Instead of focusing on how to use the equipment, which nearly all photography books do, he chose to write about the mental and intellectual processes that a photographer undergoes in making photographs. The result is the best book on how to approach the craft and process of photographing. When I read Bill’s book, I immediately thought that this is what every aspiring photographer needs to read, no matter their level of accomplishment. It’s the book I wish I had read when I was starting out. It would have saved so much time and effort and struggle. Even after being a photographer for thirty years, I still learned a great deal. I never had the chance to thank Bill for this gift of his experiences and insights. Thanks, Bill.

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