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Then and Now…

9/9/2015

Shea Stanfield
Arts Columnist

Albert Einstein observed, “It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.” This was truly the case as local photographer Jerry Sieve started his first journey into the world of the photographic image.  

Growing up in Cincinnati, Ohio, Jerry began making pilgrimages to Arizona in the 1960s. He was captivated by the surreal landscapes of the desert southwest, sculpted by relentless winds, rushing water, and intense baking sun, landscapes that changed ever so lightly moment by moment.

Finally, convinced the Ohio winters were not getting any warmer, Jerry moved to the Valley of the Sun in 1974. In 1976, Jerry enrolled at Glendale Community College to study photography under well-known and high acclaimed photographer Willis “Pete” Peterson, a relationship that has continued to this day. With Pete’s guidance through the land of manually set cameras, canisters of film, f-stops, and a wide variety of lenses, Jerry found his life’s passion. By December 1977, Jerry was a published photographer in that month’s Arizona Highways Magazine. With the skills acquired for success, Jerry left school to work, for the next 30 years, as a professional landscape photographer. To date, he has had over 3,000 images published, 600 of them in Arizona Highways alone, along with 11 covers to his credit. 

Jerry reflects on his evolution from student of photography, to an award winning professional photographer and finally as a teacher himself. He feels aesthetic vision evolves over time. Looking back at his work over a 35-year career, he can identify the period of time when a particular image was made just by the style and vision the image evokes. In his early career, he followed the style of the “Group F/64” photographers. In those landscapes, people were almost never seen and the land took on an almost environmental-utopian look. The goal was to show the immense beauty of the natural world. Obviously Jerry was extremely successful in mastering the technique through his images, many of which we have enjoyed in Arizona Highways over the years.

Today, Jerry is looking in a different direction. Part of what has freed him up to be even more creative is his decision to become a photography teacher with Paradise Valley Community College. Teaching has provided the time and space for him to consider other aspects of making images, moving away from his signature landscapes into images including people, objects, and symbolic statements with a direct link to formalism. Jerry has also transitioned from color images of his past work into monochromatic images. He feels it is easier to be expressive in black and white because the viewer is not distracted by strong color. Instead, the photograph becomes about the negative/positive space, creating shapes with the contract of dark and light, a process some would say is coming full circle back to the concept “less is more.”

To honor the relationship with his teacher and his student, as well as provide a retrospective of iconic Arizona images, Jerry has organized an exhibit called Mentor…Teacher…Student. The exhibit will be on display at the Desert Foothills Library in Cave Creek from Sept. 22-Oct. 5 during library hours. Jerry Sieve will do a “Walk-through” of the exhibit on Sept. 26 at 1 p.m. Everyone is welcome. Don’t miss the opportunity to view almost 100 years of fascinating images captured by three of Arizona’s most gifted photographers.

Contact Arts Columnist Shea Stanfield at flowingquill@yahoo.com.