A Master of His Art

It’s well known in the tri-state area that photographer Jay Stock of Martins Ferry is a master of his art, but now the legendary local lensman also is being recognized on an international level.

A collection of images from Stock’s book, “The Wonderment of Creative Vision,” has been accepted by the International Photography Hall of Fame and Museum in St. Louis. Area residents had an opportunity to see this collection when it was exhibited at Oglebay Institute’s Stifel Fine Arts Center in Wheeling last autumn.

Stock’s collection is one of the first accepted by the International Photography Hall of Fame since the organization moved from Oklahoma City to St. Louis earlier this year.

All of the collections are now housed in a new climate-controlled facility in St. Louis. The hall is expected to reopen in the Grand Centre Arts District of St. Louis in August, with John Nagel as the new executive director.

Michael Scalf Jr., former executive director of the hall, told Stock that the physical move of transferring the collection and exhibits occurred at the end of February.

“It required five tractor-trailers to hold our entire collection,” Scalf stated.

Stock’s images are now part of the hall of fame’s permanent collection.

“I personally have always revered and honored your work,” Scalf wrote in a letter to Stock.

Scalf said the hall “is equally honored” to house and maintain the Martins Ferry native’s complete exhibit.

Stock, who had been seeking a home for his collection, is thrilled that the work will become part of the permanent collection of the International Photography Hall of Fame and Museum. The master photographer turned 90 in June.

A total of 96 images from “The Wonderment of Creative Vision” were exhibited at Stifel Center for four weeks last fall, from Oct. 11 to Nov. 9. The images were matted and frame to a 30- by 30-inch size. The retrospective exhibition was titled “Jay Stock: Master Photographer.”

Stock’s longtime friend, Alesandro Baccari, a curator, photographer, educator and author from San Francisco, served as curator for Stock’s retrospective exhibition at the Stifel. The Ohio Valley community has, in Stock, “an extraordinary living legend,” Baccari commented at the time.

Stock’s photographs are saying, “‘I’m from here. I love where I am. I’m going back.’ This is a journey,” the curator observed. “This is a love affair between an artist and a community that you don’t often have … It’s almost like a spiritual marriage of people who believe in each other.”

During an opening reception at Stifel Center, Baccari commended “the relationship of the exhibit with the past and the present.” He added, “I cannot praise this stuff enough.”

The curator explained that Stock’s photos were arranged in the galleries to tell wordless stories and to show contrasts between works. “Everyone has a story. Everyone who views it will write their own story,” Baccari said of the exhibition.

Stock’s older photos were displayed with his newer works to show the connections and the contrasts between antiquity and the new, Baccari indicated. Color photographs were arranged deliberately with black-and-white photographs as contrast, he noted.

Observing Stock’s photographs, Baccari commented, “Jay has a marvelous view for the elderly. He tries to give them hope so they can see tomorrow.”

Referring to mystery and glimpses of reality in Stock’s work, Baccari said, “It’s like Jay has a third eye. And that’s the camera. He’s saying, “I’m going to keep that memory. I’m going to keep that memory alive.'”

Stock’s collection of images also have been shown at two conventions of the Professional Photographers of America, at another convention at the MGM in Las Vegas and at an event in Albany, N.Y.

In 1970, Stock was awarded a fellowship from the American Society of Photography in Santa Barbara, Calif. A portfolio of his images prepared for that occasion was accepted into the International Photography Hall of Fame.

In addition, an exhibit of Stock’s work with Native Americans was displayed at the International Photography Hall of Fame’s previous site in Oklahoma City.

A brochure prepared for the Stifel show stated, “His skill, dedication and his combination of photographic documentation and artistry have been a primary force in elevating portrait photography to an art form.”

Oglebay Institute officials said of Stock, “Jay has brought originality to his work through the awareness of the interrelationship of line, form and design. His carefully choreographed and planned use of light to achieve drama, excitement, balance and design has become the legacy of his photography.”

In 1976, Stock received the honor of being the first photographer to exhibit his work in the U.S. Capitol building. A portion of his work also was shown in the White House at that time.

During his 68-year career, Stock has traveled to five continents and created studies of diverse groups such as the Amish of Pennsylvania, coal miners of South Wales, cultures of 30 Native American tribes, 14 African tribes and the people and scenes of all provinces of Canada. He has documented Day of the Dead observances in Mexico and the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.

Stock, whose work has been featured in several exhibitions in the Ohio Valley and throughout the nation, was inducted into the Martins Ferry Hall of Fame in 2011. The Ohio General Assembly recognized him as “one of Ohio’s and America’s most outstanding photographic artists” in 1976.