The Point of it All
In a world where everything seems to be so disposable, there are treasures that people want to save and hold on to. They take with them when they move to new places and new stages in their lives. Those valuable items are the things that move their heart and soul. It's the stuff of love and life and they feel less if that treasure is not with them. I endeavor to create art that people want to take with them always. Perhaps it makes them feel centered and light in the middle of the changing and disposable world. By doing that I feel light and centered as well.
Just the color of my eyes has never changed, I have always been an artist. It's who I am. It was always there. My parents told me that my first grade teacher asked all of her pupils to draw a sailboat. Most turned out your typical “kiddie” pictures, with their crayon and construction paper. But the teacher showed my parents my picture and said, “Look at this! This really is what a sailboat looks like, feels like. Look at the waves, look at the boat, look at the seagulls. I don't think I've ever had a child draw a sailboat like your son.” So I was always an artist, just as my eyes are blue. Growing up there were many things I could not do well - catch a football, run fast, play chess, sing, et cetera. I was always the “last to cross the finish line”. However, when it came to creating images I was always ahead of the pack. In fact the pack wasn't even in sight.
The thing that inspires me to art more than anything else is beauty. When I see a woman in Paris, when I see the first Rainier cherries at the grocery store, when I see drifts of snow, when I visit the Met, that is when my creativity is triggered. I search for the beauty in all things inspired to find that everything in the world has the potential to take your breath away.
The Work Flow
I think it's important to understand there is great drama in how the media presents artists. They are portrayed as suffering souls, desperate people, lost, hurt, limping through life. I am sure some artists are like this, their lives are full of misery. Personally however, I have found that I create my art best when I want to have fun. I assemble my flowers and fruit on a table in the studio. Often, I do that a day or two before the shoot, so as I pass by them while answering the phone or getting another cup of coffee, I can look at them, study them, in a way listen to what they might be telling me. The day of the shoot, the day I actually create a piece, I want to have fun. I have found that in being light-hearted and silly, my best work emerges. I usually don't have a great sense of the final product; I have a better sense of thinking there's a picture to be found somewhere using these props. There's an image hiding from me, and in this great game of hide-and-seek, I'm going to find it. As soon as the process becomes deadly serious it doesn't work. As soon as it becomes playful, the images emerge before me and all that's left is to capture it.
The most rewarding part of the work for me is the process. On a certain day I may be crazy about creating a still life with hydrangeas, old keys, and a hundred year old love letter. The process of putting these things together is what thrills me the most. When the piece is finally hanging on the wall, I don't want to say I've lost interest, but thats more along the lines of the credits running at the end of a movie. I'm a “process guy”. Of course I'm always looking forward to the conclusion, that's the whole point, but for me that's not as exciting. I tend to embrace that timeless quote, “The journey is the destination.”
I would like to continue to make images that stop people in their tracks. Photographs that they talk about over dinner, and remember a year later. Photographs that they'd like to have in their home or office - give to their best friend, their new love, their spouse of 40 years, or their graduating grandchild. Photographs that express what they want to say to the people they know and love. If I could do that to the very end of my life, it would make me very happy. The last check I write, I hope it's not to the undertaker, but to the florist who dropped off the flowers for the day's shoot.
For the entirety of his life, Jim has dedicated much of his time to his photography. Picking up his first camera in seventh grade, an Ansco Shur Shot, Jim has never looked back. He started with a black and white 12 exposure roll of film and shot his friends running through Central Park, NYC. Those twelve pictures sit in his moms attic; tens of thousands of other photographs since then sit between the covers of hundreds of books on people, food, travel, museums and art.
Jim wouldn’t start off a conversation talking about his work, but if asked he’ll humbly go on to tell you about his adventures in Africa, photographing everything from Maasai warriors to lions on the Serengeti plains. He might also tell you about making a book called Fathers: A Celebration, a study on the celebration of fatherhood. The book itself was widely praised and rewarded him an interview on the Bravo Television Network. You may even coax him into talking about his travels around America, searching for individuals that embody the quintessence of what it is to be Irish-American for his book, The Irish Face in America. Jim would photograph them in their environments, be it home, office, cattle ranch, and in some cases, from their surfboard. It’s not everyone that gets thrown out of Beverly Hills for taking a picture of an Irish actor, whose name he will not mention.
Professionally, Jim also has worked on the best selling series of cookbooks created by Wayne Gisslen, for the publishing house of Wiley and Sons. On those particular shoots Jim not only took all the pictures, but he tasted and enjoyed every food item.
Jim has also created books on famous historical figures. If you were to ask him, his favorite is that of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for the National Civil Rights Museum. Though everyone at the Museum would agree that it’s great working with Jim, he himself would say that it was one of the great privileges of his life to work on the subject of the national civil rights movement. “I stand in the shadow of those heroes and heroines, and always will.”
You can find Jim’s photos in over 300 different titles, as well as periodicals such as Time, Newsweek, The New York Times, The New York Times Magazine, Travel and Leisure, Condé Nast Traveler, Destinations, New York Magazine, Vogue, Memphis Magazine, Hibernia, and The Washington Post.
Recently, Jim has also had the great fortune of working with the Disney family, creating Picturing the Walt Disney Family Museum, a book which showcases the life and legacy of Walt Disney.
Family and friends have long been the recipients of this multitude of fine art prints. Thanks to their encouragement Jim has been compelled to open Jim Smith Photo Arts to allow a greater audience the opportunity of acquiring these works of fine art.