Jeff is known for his history podcast on iTunes, which he started as a favour to his students who weren't able to hear his lecture as they were away on a trip.
His first recollection of a camera was at the age of 8 when he caught his first fish! His father who was a keen photographer, took a photo of Jeff holding this fish. He held out in front as instructed and was astounded to see the fish was as big as he was! From that point on he borrowed a Kodak Brownie from his mother and started making photographs taking pictures of what was around him. But realised that he had to be a little frugal with film as he became aware of the economics of film photography.
Using the Brownie he was hooked and wanted to buy a 110 cartridge camera like a Minolta or Pentax which allowed manual adjustments. But he was tempted away by the camera store seller to a Yashica GX ( A rangefinder camera). A few years later he bought an Olympus Om 1 the first of the smaller SLR film cameras, and from then he moved onto medium format and finally to the Deardorff large format camera, which as he says is his go to camera for the body of his work!
Well into photography at the age of sixteen at high school, he was involved with the high school magazine and doing his process, developing and prints in the school as well as having a darkroom under the stairs at home! His photography interest continued and at the age of 18 it was time to move on to college. But his initial course choice wasn't photography, but English! It was a good friend that told Jeff straight and 'colourfully' to change his major, in the second year, to Art and photography. Jeff took the advice. From College he started work as a local professional photographer, for weddings, portrait photography, for architects, he worked in photo labs, all sorts of things; anything that would help pay the bills! He really wanted to teach and eventually got the chance to teach Photography at the College Du Page where he lectured for over 30 years! In all that time his professional his life he used many cameras he basically had the tools that did the job. Although he had the basic tools a lot of additional equipment like specific lenses or lighting, Jeff hired. This makes sense, something which a lot of new professional photographers should take heed, especially when they're looking to keep the outgoings under control. As Jeff mentioned all the hired equipment cost was covered in the fee to the client. What a great tip!
It was whilst at Du Page when lecturing one time around 2005, that he realised that a number of students would miss a lecture as they would be away on a field trip. To help them out he recorded the lecture and uploaded it on the college internet for them. This became so popular with the students that he continued to upload the lectures. This was all before iTunes, similar to Brooks Jensen. When Apple created iTunes it gave Jeff the 'tool' to put more lectures out to a wider audience. Later he was able to create enhanced podcasts with slide images and of course now it's possible to show the video! Wow! Simply 10 years ago - how far technology has come in that time. He started to check out what was out there in the Podcast 'Sphere' and couldn't really find anything like what he was recording.
In my opinion, as I asked him, his show is so important for photographers to realise the 'old timers' and their skill of photography. He says, 'You cant know where you're gong until you know where you've been.' He was lucky enough to be present at the very last Ansel Adams presentation. It was an amazing experience for him as he listened to a knowledgeable man, but with dignity and a few laughs along the way.
During the show we went to screen-share to look at Jeff's images and you can see immediately the quality of his image making. His ability to capture the light, the shadow and the detail shows his professionalism and keen eye. The majority of his mono work is made using the Deardorff large format camera. But looking further into the website you can see more quality work created in colour especially the images of Venice. Jeff loves Italy and has visited the country many times. It is to this country that he makes a regular visit for his workshops where he creates a warm and friendly atmosphere of taking photographs. The best way to learn!
We're living in a period of an amazing advances in photography. Photography probably has never been so popular especially as well have a camera in our pockets. This does impinge on the professional photographer nut not to the detriment of photography. Professional photographers have to step up to the plate and show the qualities and produce a greater depth of their work and realise the ability to communicate, not lament on how many photographers are capable of taking a good photograph!
His favourite photographer from all of the image makers he has discussed and lectured on?
The French photographer that documented Paris. The Paris of Atget's youth that was slowly declining. He took the images of the back streets, of the shop keepers and the prostitutes, not the Glitzy side of Paris that was developing around the turn of the last century. (1890-1920)
A truly amazing photographer that produced images with such 'soul'.
His inspiration surprised me... I though he was going to mention the friend that change the course of his major from English to art and Photography. No it was Neil Rappaport, Jeff's Graduate School Mentor, he change how photography could be in Jeff's life; As a person, as a photographer and as a teacher.
Until next time "Leave your camera bag at home"
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