ICP Member Spotlight: Q&A with Jay Tanen

Aug 10, 2015

What first brought you to ICP, and why did you decide to become a member?

I joined ICP to increase my knowledge and understanding of photography; I found it an environment that stimulated my thoughts and opened up new ways of seeing.

What has been your favorite ICP moment, class, program, exhibition, or photographer?

Over the years I have had access to the galleries at ICP when I was the only person there. It was somewhat special to be in my own world without other people around and to fully interact with the images I was seeing. An exhibition that had a big impact on me was of the work of Yousuf Karsh, a humble man who was truly one of the greatest.

I have taken many classes at ICP over the years, but the one taught by Amy Arbus stands out. The passion she brought to class every week was remarkable and has stayed with me.

If you could meet a photographer, who would it be?

I have been very fortunate to have met and worked with some truly great photographers, including Ernst Haas, Eliot Porter, Gordon Parks, Philip Jones Griffiths, Joel Meyerowitz, Susan Meiselas, Jay Maisel, and many more. The one photographer who I wish I had met was Saul Leiter. I had taken a workshop with Maisel, and he mentioned that some of my work reminded him of Leiter's. I had heard the name but was not really familiar with his work. I woke up one night at 3 am and went on Amazon and ordered some of his books. I later found out Leiter had died that evening.

Do you collect photography? Do you have notable works in your collection?

I own a number of prints; most were given to me by the photographers themselves, including Bert Stern, Robert Farber, Joyce Tenneson, Dennis Stock, and Doug Menuez. My favorite print is a dye transfer of an Ernst Haas image from his book The Creation. It's a field of flowers, and you can actually feel the breeze of the summer day when you look at it.

Jay Tanen

Ruin from 1730, Abiquiú, New Mexico. Photo by Jay Tanen.

What type of photographs do you take?

I've been taking photographs for over 50 years, doing commercial and fashion as well as documentary work. The transition to the digital world has opened up many outlets. The past few years have been travel-related, including landscapes, wildlife, and people. I photograph tennis at the U.S. Open every year. I've also become interested in photographing fireworks.

As someone who works in the field of photography, have there been any defining moments in your career or interesting experiences you would like to share with us?

What I'll always look back on is 9/11. I had worked with Joel Meyerowitz, making prints of the Twin Towers. These were marvelous images shot on 8x10 film over a 20-year period. A week after finishing these works of art, 9/11 happened. It has been well documented how Joel managed to photograph the destruction and aftermath. The State Department wanted to have traveling exhibitions of his work to show the world what had happened. I've always felt special knowing I had a part in this project.


The Member Spotlight is an opportunity for members to discuss their most memorable experiences at ICP. If you would like to share your story, send us an email at membership@icp.org.