Culture & Communication
« My photographs are images of a world hurtling toward an uncertain future, made in a medium that has already ended, by a photographer confronting his own demise. »
— Jeff Jacobson
JEFF JACOBSON: THE LAST ROLL
Inaugural Exhibition for The Last Roll On View at
The Center for Photography at Woodstock
April 13 to June 15, 2013
For 35 years, photographer Jeff Jacobson has worked exclusively with Kodachrome film, creating images of people and landscapes, mostly made in America, that push the boundaries of photojournalism to present a more poetic and subjective view of the world. Jacobson has described his approach to his photography as rooted in the world but having « one foot in the real world, and one foot somewhere else. » His photographs, which are sometimes difficult to decipher, can be beautiful, dreamlike, theatrical, artful, meditative, or quirky, reflecting the artist’s personal approach to his work.
The work in Jacobson’s third monograph, The Last Roll (Daylight Books, March 2013) was not a pre-planned concept, but rather evolved out of the blue as a result of timing. In December of 2004, Jacobson was diagnosed with cancer. He underwent chemotherapy treatment, and his life temporarily stopped. While recovering at his home in the Catskills in upstate New York, he was at first too weak to leave the house so he started shooting inside (something he would never have imagined doing previously), out the window, and as he regained his strength outside the house in his backyard, on the street, and by the river. After six months he took his first trip on a plane to resume photographing the rest of America.
In 2009, while still working on the The Last Roll, Kodak announced that it was discontinuing the production of Kodachrome film. The last roll of the film that Jacobson had used for 20 years was processed in 2010. While grappling with his own mortality, Jacobson was working in a medium that had already ended. In his personal statement Jacobson writes:
« A few days before Christmas, 2004, I was diagnosed with lymphoma. Some present. After each chemotherapy session I retreated to our home in the Catskills to recuperate. I began photographing around the house, as I was too sick to go anywhere else. As my strength returned, my photographic universe slowly expanded. Shortly thereafter, Kodak discontinued production of Kodachrome. I loved Kodachrome. It helped shape my photographic vision. I filled my refrigerator and wine cooler with the stuff and kept shooting. I have outlived my film. A few days before Christmas, 2010, I exposed my last roll. »
The Last Roll is Jacobson’s attempt to answer his question « what do you do when you are presented with your own physical and creative mortality? » This beautiful and compelling body of photographs provides a nuanced, first person depiction of a cancer patient’s changing perspectives on life, death, art and the world at-large. The colors in Jacobson’s photographs of deer basked in car headlights, a lake at dusk, cranes in flight, a tree splattered with blue paint, Mt. St. Helen’s, his wife looking out the window, a self portrait, are more muted than in his previous work as he moves into a deeper place of self reflection. Jacobson refers to photography as the fulcrum of his life, no matter what else is going on, and this feeling is celebrated in The Last Roll. The photographs are accompanied by a poem written by Jacobson’s wife Marnie Andrews.
A recurring theme in all of Jacobson’s landscape work is sadness about the destruction that man has wrought on the earth. This is reflected in Jacobson’s choice of paper for the book. The book is printed on American Mohawk, a completely untreated paper with no gloss to it to the extent you can still see the little flecks and dots all the way through it which are pieces of trees.
The first exhibition of the work presented in The Last Roll will debut at The Center for Photography at Woodstock on April 13 and remain on view through June 15, 2013. For more information, visit http://www.cpw.org.
About the Artist:
Jeff Jacobson was born in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1946. He has published two previous books,My Fellow Americans, University of New Mexico Press, in 1991, and Melting Point, Nazraeli Press, in 2006. Jacobson joined Magnum Photos in 1978. He later left Magnum to help found Archive Pictures. Jacobson’s photographs are in the permanent collections of The Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, The Houston Museum of Fine Art, George Eastman House in Rochester, New York, The Center For Creative Photography, Tucson, Az., The Joy of Giving Society in New York, and have been exhibited at The Walker Arts Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota, The International Center of Photography, New York, The Jewish Museum, New York, High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Ga., Museo Rufino Tamayo, Mexico City, and The Armand Hammer Museum in Los Angeles. Jeff teaches workshops yearly at the International Center of Photography in New York, and at his home in the Catskills. He has also taught at The Tuscany Photo Workshop, The Anderson Ranch, Center For Photography at Woodstock, the Julia Dean Photo Workshop in Los Angeles, and Centro de la Imagen in Mexico City. He has won grants from the National Endowment For The Arts, and The New York Foundation For The Arts. He has worked as a photojournalist for major magazines around the world. His website is
About the Publisher:
Daylight is a non-profit organization dedicated to publishing art and photography via books, a magazine, and multimedia programs. By exploring the documentary mode along with the more conceptual concerns of fine art, Daylight’s uniquely collectible publications work to revitalize the relationship between art, photography, and the world-at-large. For more information, visit www.daylightbooks.org.