Louis Jay’s photography career spans more than 40 years.
Born in Philadelphia, he moved to London as a young man in the mid 1970s where – inspired by Kertész, Brassaï, and other classic documentary shooters of the 20th century – he roamed the city with his Leica camera, taking pictures of life on the streets. During his three-and-a-half years in London, he studied photography at Harrow College of Art.
Louis returned to the U.S. to continue his education with the great photographer Lisette Model at Parsons School of Design in New York City. Her mantra – “Never take a picture of anything you’re not passionately interested in” – had a profound impact on him throughout his life behind the lens.
Taking a temporary break from photography, Louis entered New York University Graduate Film Institute, where he studied with the renowned Czech cinematographer, Beda Bakta. Following his 1982 graduation, he worked as an assistant cameraman on commercials and independent films in New York City for several years. However, Louis grew restless with this work and felt a constant gnawing to return to his first love, photography. So in 1983, he launched a commercial photography business in New York City and began shooting portraits and working with advertising agencies.
“NEVER TAKE A PICTURE
OF ANYTHING YOU'RE NOT
PASSIONATELY INTERESTED IN.”
– LISETTE MODEL
His assignments allowed him to travel widely. Louis developed a particular fondness for Rio de Janeiro and relocated his studio there – in the Gavia neighborhood – in 1986. There he photographed ads, record covers, and editorial portraits for Interview magazine. During these years, Louis continued pursuing his personal projects – photographing life and people in urban settings – which resulted in two one-man shows in New York (Cafeteria Portraits) and Rio (The Lapa Exhibit).
In 1991, Louis moved back to the States and established a studio in Miami’s Design District where he continued to pursue commercial and portrait work. Throughout his international career, Louis taught photography classes at schools like Parsons, the Miami Ad School, and Barry University. He also ran workshops in various cities, including the New York City-based Lighting Workshop, which instructed photographers on the basics of studio lighting.
After surviving life-threatening surgery in 2011, Louis sold his studio in Miami, retired from commercial work, and returned to photographing people and their surrounding – his true passion. A lifelong dream to curate a book of photographs culminated in his first publication, Passing Fancies (Luce Press, 2018), a meditative documentary of Louis’s fascination with the spirit, mystery, and allure of his favorite places – Miami, Paris, the Amalfi Coast, and Rio, to name a few.
Louis now photographs for himself. He and his wife, Marie Luce, live in Miami and Paris.