Geoff Green

Photo Courtesy of Mel Di Giacomo

I came to know Jay and his family only after I was hired as Jay’s first assistant. It is surprising I was offered the job, you see Jay boasts of his technical ineptitude and yet he brought me on. A recent graduate with a degree in anthropology, working as a waiter on the Upper East Side and not a clue what a strobe pack and head were. That’s the thing about Jay, he was more concerned I appreciated the education I had – he asked during the interview if I regretted not getting a degree in photography or art, I replied no, studying people and cultures can apply to anything – and was willing to learn, keep a keen eye, but most importantly, push a broom. He told me later my candor was appreciated during the interview. In fact I was too naïve to realize who I was interviewing with, not being nervous or impressed by Jay and the building/studio was my greatest asset. The indoor basketball court made me think I was in an old school gymnasium, not a former bank.

Luckily Jay relies mostly on that big old sun in the sky as a light source. Of course it meant early mornings, late evenings, looking at shadows and a lot of time for lunch. No not lunch for me, I was running film to the lab, looking at clip tests and stressing over exposure for no real reason, each roll was always so heavily bracketed the clip tests were worthless. This was in the pre-digital era. You might be led to think I had it easy, Jay doesn’t actively light a scene. He uses what is available, waits for the right time, or finds the best vantage point and preaches traveling light; carrying too much gear becomes cumbersome and limits your ability to shoot. Unless of course you have an assistant, then it is everything but the kitchen sink. Ever try carrying a 500mm f4 plus all the usual gear (camera bodies, film, batteries, other lenses, unused model releases, never used speedlights, etc) while attempting to keep up through the crowds of a St. Patrick’s Day or Yankee parade? Good thing he’s tall and I could spot his head with a camera pressed to it from a distance. And don’t forget you have to keep those bodies loaded with film, oh man would he get cranky when the next camera wasn’t ready. Ugh, thinking about it is making my shoulders sore. I hear he is happy with the new 28-300mm, where was that when I needed it?

All in all it was a great experience working for Jay. The opportunity to explore the massive film and print files, travel, meet and build relationships with the crazy cast of characters he calls friends. Not to mention fixing toilets, cleaning the sidewalk, pretending I had a clue when replacing light switches and checking on the always temperamental boiler. But most importantly Jay was and is my surrogate NYC father, his family has always felt like my family and this is what I appreciate most. Thanks Jay – Happy Birthday!

- Geoff Green, 1st Assistant 1997-2001