Meet Bill Jay, evangelist, bible salesman, photographer, editor, writer, curator, lecturer, historian, instigator, provocateur, teacher, mentor and rattlesnake shooter, Bill Jay was all of these and more. A man whose influence on photography in the UK and US from the mid-sixties until his death in Costa Rica in 2009 cannot be underestimated.
In 2018 the film Do Not Bend: The Photographic Life of Bill Jay was first screened at the Martin Parr Foundation in Bristol, UK. It was the culmination of two years work. A film made by just two people, myself, and filmmaker Tim Pellatt. The team that created the film was as small as the budget. It was a self-funded project with no additional financial support and yet its impact within the photographic community in both the UK and US belied its humble origins.
Bill Jay had been forgotten and dismissed by many talking of the photographic history of the late 20th Century in the UK. UNP founder and curator Grant Scott sought to find out why and to put the record straight.
In this podcast series Scott tell’s Bill Jay’s story and that of his own journey searching for the truth surrounding Jay’s life. Featuring new interviews and material not included in the film, this podcast aims to place Jay into his rightful place within the written and oral photographic history of the late 20th Century.
William ‘Bill’ Jay (12 August 1940 – 10 May 2009) was a photographer, a writer on and advocate of photography, a curator, a magazine and picture editor, lecturer, public speaker and mentor. He was the first editor of Creative Camera Owner magazine, which became Creative Camera magazine (1967–1969) and founder and editor of Albummagazine (1970–1971).
He established the first gallery dedicated to photography in the UK with the Do Not Bend Gallery, London and the first Director of Photography at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in London. Whilst there he founded and directed the first photo-study centre.
He studied at the University of New Mexico under Beaumont Newhall and Van Deren Coke and then founded the Photographic Studies programme at Arizona State University, where he taught photography history and criticism for 25 years.
He is the author of more than twenty books on the history and criticism of photography, four books of his own photography, and roughly 400 essays, lectures and articles. His regular column titled Endnotes was published within Lenswork magazine for a number of years.
His own photographs have been widely published, including a solo exhibition at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
Image: Copyright David Hurn/Magnum
© Grant Scott 2022