Photo Courtesy of Seth Resnick
I met Jay formally in 1978 when he came to speak at Syracuse University. Stephen Wilkes and I were room mates and Jay stayed at our house. Stephen decided that he needed to work for Jay and I was mesmerized by Jay’s images. His work set off something inside me that made me realize what I love about photography. I also admired his sense of business and his opposition to work for hire. Lastly, my grandfather smoked cigars and Jay smoked a brand that my grandfather smoked so I instantly found that Jay automatically invoked some of my fondest childhood memories. Since 1978 I have stayed friends with Jay and my admiration grew and continues to grow. He was and still is my mentor and I am simply blown away not only by his work but also by the vast quantities of amazing images that he continually produces. I started to carry a camera with me at all times and attribute my shoulder problems to my mentor. When I started teaching I would always show students work of people I admired and somewhere along the line I started telling folks that my photographic mentor was God. I would explain that my God was a little different than theirs because mine smokes a cigar and carries a Nikon. To this day I still tell every class stories about God.
I could write a book about Jayism’s and stories about God but a few particular stories stand out above all the rest. I have heard Jay say that one of the most embarrassing moments in his life involved me. I am honored… I had my two girls with me. Paige was about 11 and Karalyn was about 6 and we were driving from Albuquerque, New Mexico to Santa Fe where I was going to be teaching a course. Along the way I am telling my girls that Santa Fe is very much unlike Boston or New York. It is a gorgeous peaceful place where you don’t even need to lock your doors and a place where kids can ride bikes and play without adults always watching. The girls were very excited to see this Utopia. We pull into the parking lot at the Santa Fe Workshops and I park my car. I notice that on the opposite side of the parking lot in my rear view mirror there is another car and all I can see are two legs and the open door. I don’t think twice about it and tell the girls that I just want to make sure that there is someone still at the school because it is now after-hours. I open my car door and hear a deep voice which says.” Hey we don’t want your type here,” Get the fuck out of here,” “Go Home,” and a few other foul expressions. Both of my girls are instantly scared and I feel like an idiot because Santa Fe is just like Boston and New York. I calmly tell them that it is probably a homeless person and we will all just hold hands and walk to the building. As I am walking the “homeless guy” gets out of the car and my girls are terrified. As I am holding them I turn and the homeless guy is Jay and his face is bright red. I look at him and laugh and say “Jay what are you doing here?” not realizing that he was teaching the week earlier. My girls say outloud, “You know this guy!?” To this day Jay still cringes at the story, but yes, I did know that guy and it was a classic introduction to my family…
I think the other classic Jay story was a few years back and I was having dinner with LA, Amanda and Jay. Jay and I were yapping away and Amanda looked at me and said “You really remind me of my father.” I replied “Thank you, that is quite a compliment.” Amanda replied, ” I didn’t mean it as a compliment…”
Well, I would write a few more but Jay won’t read these anyways and God will probably say ‘What d’fuck is a blog?’
Happy 80th, God!
All the best,