Issue #161  5/16/2009
Curator, Author and Photographer Bill Jay Passes Away in His Sleep

"Everything about photography, everything I write about photography, everything I photograph has a feedback system which says: This is what it's like to be human."--Bill Jay in a 2007 interview by Darius Himes of the Photo District News.

Bill Jay passed away in his sleep in Costa Rica Sunday night, May 10th. As Tucson photography dealer Terry Etherton noted in an email to fellow AIPAD photography dealers, "For those of you who knew Bill, you understand what a huge loss this is to the photography world."

Bill Jay began his career in the U.K. His first article to appear in print was published in "Practical Photography" magazine, then the largest circulation monthly in Europe, when he was only 19 years old. It was the start of career writing about the photography medium that extended over more than 40 years.

He later became the first director of photography at the Institute of Contemporary Arts and was the first editor/director of "Creative Camera" magazine from 1968-1969. In 1970 he founded and edited a new London-based journal, "Album". It only survived for one year, 12 issues.

To pay the bill during this early period, he was also picture editor of a large circulation news/feature magazine and the European manager of an international picture agency. He left England in 1972 to come to the U.S.

After studying with Beaumont Newhall and Van Deren Coke at the University of New Mexico, he founded the program of photographic studies at Arizona State University, where he taught history and criticism classes for 25 years.

Bill Jay published over 400 articles and was the author of more than 20 books on the history and criticism of photography. Most of these books have been published with Chris Pichler of Nazraeli Press, a former student of Jay's. Some of his recent titles include: Cyanide and Spirits: an inside-out view of early photography; Occam's razor: an outside-in view of contemporary photography; USA Photography Guide; Bernard Shaw: On Photography; Negative/Positive: a philosophy of photography; 61 Pimlico; Sun in the Blood of the Cat; Men Like Me, etc.

Jay was also frequently asked to contribute essays to monographs by well-known photographers, such as Jerry Uelsmann, Bill Brandt, Michael Kenna and Bruce Barnbaum.

Until his retirement, Bill Jay was a frequent guest lecturer at symposia and conferences and at colleges and universities in England and Europe, as well as throughout the U.S.

His own photographs have been widely published and exhibited, including a solo show at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. His previous monograph, "Photographers Photographed", included a selection of the thousands of portraits he has taken of prominent individuals of the medium of photography, a database of which is located at the Center of Creative Photography, which also houses his research archives.