Sunday, January 16, 2011
Jerry Gay Book Tour Review
The short version: Socrates with a Nikon.
Photo books can be as provocative and powerful as any written word. Pulitzer Prize winner, Photo author and philosopher Jerry Gay has something to say. His book “Seeing Reality” is the result of a three year journey in search of commonality among people. Suffice to say Mr. Gay is a really, really, nice man and that comes through by being in the room less than five minutes where he reaches out to the individual as well as any author alive. He is a preacher of sorts, (his first subject of study in school before photography) and speaks of people trying to discover the reality of life and how those things we experience place us in a community of men. Everyone together all with common experiences and feelings.
There is, however, a violence that exists in gentle men. The depth of the soul that allows recognition of deep kindness can also has the ability to recognize its polar opposite and this is displayed in much of Mr. Gay’s work. The photos of the discarded waste of man’s existence are evident. The commentary about violations such as a photo of a school bus sign destroyed on the ground by man’s action, or a warning road sign full of bullet holes are presented throughout his work. The best example is the juxtaposition of two photos’s shown during Mr. Gay’s book reading. One was a flawless photo of the Dali Lama, preceded by a disturbing photo’s of serial killer Ted Bundy in leg irons.
Madison Avenue images these are not but nor are they staged props to make a statement. “I take photos of things as they are.” Said Mr. Gay during the Q&A. The contrasting display of both the good and bad of the United States are shown equally, whether it is Mr. Gay capturing the image of a discarded toothbrush lying in the middle of a U.S. highway or three happy children working their lemonade stand. “The trick is this. If you give out energy,” Mr. Gay says. “you get a picture back.”
Like all artistic work, the intentions are sometimes received different than what might be intended. Where some see Mr. Gay’s black and white photos as nothing more than a picture, others could see them as engravings on the country’s condition. What the artist intentions sometimes are of no consequence.
½ hour before the discussion begins, Mr. Gay is there speaking informally to the audience and working the room which always impresses me. The reading starts right on time. He claims that he is new to public speaking but the crowd on a cold raining night is modest and Mr. Gay looks comfortable on stage. Think of the late television artist Bob Ross and his giant Afro painting pictures of landscapes or better yet go to Mr. Gay’s website and listen to the audio. Feel the calm come over you.
Another plus to the evening: Mr. Gay does not spend one moment on explaining the type of camera film or F-stop used when he took each photo. That kind of camera-gear head talk is for photography seminars and magazines not a man trying to sell books.
The pictures are impressive and you would expect so coming from a Pulitzer winning photographer, but it is difficult to make a statement with photography yet Jerry Gay has the talent to capture a millisecond of life that bring out the energy of his subjects and the times. That is not to say all the pictures are worthy of deep reflection but they often result in a response that goes like its author, go deeper than the glossy cover. Mr. Gay comments on each photo with interesting antidotes for the more fascinating pictures. Some images come across the screen and when the author has little to say about them he feels compelled to fill the silent room with an unnecessary caption.
It is at the end of the reading where Mr. Gay returns to his original message that comes across as preachy. He does not invoke God, but rather a Spirituality that places each of us in the same place. Your God, my God and Mr. Gay’s God all have a part in the same world. His message, however, carries too long afterwards even into the Q & A at the end of the presentation. What works in the coffee shops and living rooms of friends does not always translate well into the arena of public speaking. But for that small glitch, Mr. Gay’s talent speaks for itself.