About

Born in Chicago in 1944, Jay King found his photographic eye in 1962, shooting the crowds at Chicago’s version of Coney Island, Riverview Amusement Park. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin in 1966 with a B.A. in history, he became a commercial photographer in Chicago.

His influences were the usual suspects. The Decisive Moment introduced him to the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson. His discovery of The Americans made Robert Frank his standard to this day. Frank and other Institute of Design alumni gave Jay the validity, perhaps, to capture his world from the sidelong glance. He could recede from his subjects, who were often barely aware of his presence anyway. No intrusion to cause the slightest self consciousness. No invasion of their private moment.

Recording these “thin slices of time,” as he called it once, has become his art. But the exhibition of his work was of practically no concern to him. In 1967, the curator of photography at the Art Institute of Chicago, Hugh Edwards, included Jay’s work in an exhibit for the Illinois Arts Council called “People of Illinois-10 Illinois Photographers” that toured the state for two years. There were no other exhibitions of his work until the Chicago Center of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College collected seventy-one of his prints for a major show in 1982. Since that time, his photographs have been acquired by New York’s Museum of Modern Art and the Chicago Historical Society as well as Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Photography.

Chicago, of course, remains a prime source of material for his sidelong glance. Not necessarily the photogenic cityscape or urban grit used in countless movies and TV shows. The city is people to Jay King. People have stories in them, stories they tell whenever they think no one is watching. But Jay is watching.