Jay Jorgensen · 1964-2024

9th February 2024, 3:48 pm

 

Jay J 500

Former ToFF Board of Directors Member

We were saddened to hear of the unexpected passing of a friend. We have lost a great and kind man and hope he knew how much he was loved. Talented and creative, he was a photographer, photo editor and author. He will be remembered through the work he did and the generosity he shared.

He lived in Los Angeles, became well-know in Palm Springs and was internationally renowned. He died of an apparent heart attack at home.

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Photo at TOM House by Fernando Guerrero

 

“I have been shooting for over 25 years now. A book of my nudes was published in 2006 by Bruno Gmunder called Shades of Desire. My commercial work has appeared in T.V. Guide, People, The Advocate, Palm Springs Life and other magazines. As for goals, I am fortunate to have reached a few of them with the book and winning the Emerging Erotic Artist Award from Tom of Finland Foundation. I seem to be hired commercially mostly for portraits of actors and artists…”

 

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JAY JORGENSEN (American, 1964-2024), Baptism, 1999, B/W photograph. Grand Prize Winner and Photography 1st Place – 1999 ToFF Emerging Erotic Artist Contest

 

Jorgensen was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1964. He picked up his first camera at a young age and was hooked. Moving to Los Angeles in 1985, Jorgensen’s work took a turn when a friend asked him to take some nudes. “It opened up a whole new way of expression for me, and I began asking friends to pose for me. Those early images allowed me a certain intimacy in the images because of my familiarity with the subjects.”

His photography has also appeared in the anthologies Ecce Homo, Nudes Index IX, and Naked. In Los Angeles, his work was shown at Highways Performance Space & Gallery and in Palm Springs at The Jerry Miller Gallery of Contemporary Photography. In 2009, he was a judge for the Tom of Finland Emerging Artist Competition. Jorgensen was also a film and fashion historian, and collector. He authored three books on Hollywood history, wrote profiles on celebrities and penned an article on Robert Mapplethorpe for Palm Springs Life.


A NEW LEASE ON LIFE…

Imagine a parent’s surprise and dismay when a child says he is not going to become a banker or a lawyer – he is going to become an artist. Now imagine the parent’s reaction when they discover the child isn’t painting sunny landscapes or vases of flowers. He’s painting men. Naked men. Fucking.

This is only one scenario in the offbeat life of an erotic artist.

Much like my homosexuality, my photographing nude men is not a choice. It is something I am compelled to do. Perhaps it is because I was a fat as a child that the male nude is the perfect way of conveying vulnerability to me. Or perhaps it is because of my own body image problems that I use the images to say, “Look, I may not appear like this on the outside, but this is the beauty that is in my head.” Whatever the reason, it is my way of communicating through a visual language.

I don’t know if any artist fully understands how his brain transfers his creative thought processes through his hands to create art out of a blank canvas, a hunk of clay, or unexposed film. However, I do know that process is a very fragile one.

When I won the Grand Prize in the Tom of Finland Emerging Erotic Artist Competition last year (tying with the artist Lalo), my creative spirit was quite literally dying. The loss of both my lover and mother to cancer within a period of a year and a half had rendered me nearly incapable of taking photographs. I understood well the spiraling depression that was felt by so many of my friends who had lost a succession of lovers and friends to AIDS in the 1980s and ’90s.

I had entered the Emerging Erotic Artist Contest at the urging of a friend who had been involved with the Foundation. I wasn’t sure that entering the contest was a good idea, as the shock of losing two people so close to me had left me seemingly unable to communicate through my visual medium anymore, and I felt lost. But I put one foot in front of the other, slipped the photograph in the envelope, licked the stamps, and sent the package on its way.

 

Jay Jorgensen artist photo

JAY JORGENSEN (American, 1964-2024), Mark Drawing Eliza, 2002, Gelatin silver print. Alltogether, Paris, 2022

The weekend of the Erotic Art Fair was surreal. Congratulations came from many of the photographers and artists whose work I had always admired.

At the Awards ceremony, I had an epiphany. As I listened to Foundation President & Cofounder Durk Dehner’s speech on the legacy of the artist Quaintance, and the importance of artists documenting their own work, I looked out at the crowd of artists, and wondered if anyone was documenting them as they worked.

I turned to the artist sitting next to me, who was visiting from France, and asked if I might photograph him. He agreed, and the blood began flowing again from my brain to my shutter finger. Consequently, I have had the most productive year of my photographic career, not only creating the erotic artist series, but also photographing an entire new series of nudes.

Despite the great strides that book and card publishers have made in embracing male nudes in the last two decades, creating them and showing them to a mainstream public is still an uphill battle. Photographing male nudes outdoors is problematic, at best. And finding a gallery that shows male nudes by an unknown photographer is no easy feat. But the encouragement I have received from the Foundation this past year has been invaluable and I persist.

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JAY JORGENSEN (American, 1964-2024), Artis, 1995, Gelatin silver print.

 

When you buy a work by an erotic artist, or indeed any artist, your association with that artist does not end with your going home and displaying your purchase. You have provided that artist with the encouragement that someone has connected with his work and given him the financial resources he needs to keep creating. Never underestimate the power of that.

It is, happily, what keeps us from having to become bankers and lawyers.

OHyqB0G0 400x400 BW-Jay Jorgensen, Tom of Finland Foundation Dispatch, 2000

 

 

Published: 9th February 2024

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