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About the Photographer
Jaffe, Jack A.
Initially trained as a journalist, Jack Jaffe took up photography in 1962 after seeing the work of Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, and other photographers from the Farm Security Administration's documentary project during the Great Depression. Jaffe's black and white photographs from the 1960s reflect a like-minded approach to photography as a means of social commentary. Among his early works in MoCP's collection are photographs he made on the streets in Israel, and others depicting the Maxwell Street neighborhood of his native Chicago—the birthplace of Chicago Blues, and the site of a famous open air market—which in the late 1960s began to resist the expansion of the University of Illinois at Chicago and was eventually overtaken.
Aside from a period working as a freelance photojournalist between 1968 and 1971, Jaffe primarily spent the first three decades of his career as a businessman. After selling his business in 1984 he became a full-time photographer. In the 1990s Jaffe began splitting his time between Chicago—where he continued to embrace a street photography style—and Bozeman, Montana. In his photographs from Montana, Jaffe responds more contemplatively to the stillness and openess of the land. He often uses a panormaic format to follow the distant, sweeping horizon and he uses the changing quality of the light and a rich tonal range in his prints to depict a quiet landscape that is variously majestic, ominous, or serene. Ultimately, the vision of Montana that emerges in his images is that of a largely uninhabited place, where the agrarian activities of humankind are overshadowed by almost primal terrain. In some pictures clustered bales of hay loosely mirror distant hills, while in others a collapsed barn is surrounded by expansive, empty plains. In a number of photographs, however, Jaffe alludes to particular ways of life in Montana, such as a group portrait at a Hutterite colony and images of men operating farm machinery.
Beyond his own practice as a photographer, Jaffe played an active role in supporting the work of other photographers. In 1985 Jaffe founded the not-for-profit Focus Infinity Fund to facilitate new projects with young photographers and Midwest museums. In 1986 the fund sponsored Farm Families, featuring Archie Leiberman, Rhondal McKinney, and Tom Arndt. Two years later it commissioned thirty photographers to participate in Changing Chicago, one of the largest documentary projects ever organized in an American city, which was subsequently exhibited at five Chicago museums. Jaffe was one of the founders of MoCP.