Photography provides sharp retirement focus for BG’s Joe Jacoby
Written by DAVID DUPONT Sentinel Arts & Entertainment Editor
Saturday, 17 August 2013 08:09
As Professor Joe Jacoby's retirement approached in 2008, he had his future in sharp focus.
|Joe Jacoby, photographer, will have his photographs for sale at the Levis Commons Fine Art Fair. (Photo: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)
Jacoby taught sociology and criminology for 27 years at Bowling Green State University, capping a 33-year academic career. In that time he'd attended plenty of retirement parties - wine, cheese and shop talk.
He wanted something different. So Jacoby staged an exhibit of his photography in the gallery space in the Bowen-Thompson Student Union. "I did it as a celebration of post-retirement life."
With his teaching duties behind him, and his two sons, David and Daniel, grown, he was returning to an old love, photography.
That avocation jibed nicely with plans to travel with his wife, Elayne.
Jacoby is showing and selling his nature photography, including images of his recent travels to southern Africa, today and tomorrow at the Levis Commons Fine Arts Fair in Perrysburg. He is in booth 67. The fair is open today until 8 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
This will be the third art fair he's participated in starting with the Black Swamp Arts Festival in 2011.
The best part of art fairs, Jacoby said, is talking to those who stop at the booth. "People come and visit with us and talk with us about the images, and we hear their reaction to the images. ... So much satisfaction comes from sharing."
That first "retirement" exhibit, which he billed as "his last lecture," provided the impetus for his new career. He even sold a few images.
He said it's gratifying when "someone takes out their wallet to pay for it ... and saying they want it in their home."
At this point, though, exhibiting and selling is taking a back seat to traveling and capturing images of those places.
That first exhibit paired his images with his parting reflections on being a professor. Some were profound. The image of a light beam in a canyon in Arizona has the caption: "Moments of true enlightenment are rare and fleeting, but they are worth all the time and effort required to produce them."
Some were humorous. An image of The Last Supper with the figures depicted as disembodied shrouds has the caption: "Much university service involves sitting in meetings where unending, dispirited discussion occurs."
Jacoby said years ago he was interested in photography, and even had a darkroom set up in his home. Then he and Elayne had children.
That meant photography was mostly of them, and travels involved going to see extended family who lived 500 miles away.
Then he started reading about digital photography, and became fascinated. He bought a camera and then a better one.
He sought the advice of friends including award-winning photographer Jan Bell.
As he learned more, he realized "this is difficult stuff."
So he signed up for a workshop with Jim Altengarten, a western photographer, who was offering a workshop in Death Valley.
The workshops include classes, critiques and extensive shooting sessions.
The retired professor has since attended several other Altengarten sessions. "Each time I've learned more," he said.
While Elayne Jacoby doesn't attend those, she does go on other adventures.
The trips have included Africa, the coast of the British Isles, the western U.S., Italy and Costa Rica.
"I tell people photography gives me an excuse to travel to beautiful places," he said. They can travel in a way that has minimal impact on the environment and provides economic benefits to their destinations.
For Jacoby the attraction of photography is the chance to step back the bustle of the world. "It gives you permission to just stand and watch," he said.
The shutter may be open for a fraction of a second, but the photographer may have to wait a half-hour until the morning light is just right.
When they travel, Elayne Jacoby doesn't go out on those shoots at "the golden hour," she does accompany him later, when her husband goes to capture the evening light.
"I enjoy watching him work," she said. "I enjoy his intensity. ... I find that fascinating so I take pictures of him taking pictures."
Jacoby said his wife is "much more comfortable" snapping photos of people, especially children, than he is.
Photography has also provided him with another social outlet. He joined the Toledo Camera Club.
"Virtually everyone in that club, I wouldn't have known otherwise," he said. "We learn from one another."
Creating art can be lonely, and the club offers network of fellow photographers to give feedback on his work.
Jacoby said in talking with retirees "those who are doing the best were doing new things and meeting new people. Photography has worked well for me. It's been an easy transition."