More than 25 years apart,
photographer Jacobs explores
two different views of California

After graduating from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1973, I did some freelance photography, had a few odd jobs, traveled a little and then returned to northern California to a job as a clerk in the 7-11 convenience store in Sausalito. Sausalito was fun in the 70's. Since the 7-11 was the only 24 hour store in town, I got to know many of the locals. The flow of characters was wonderful. I kept a Nikon with a 28 mm lens behind the counter and photographed the customers from my perspective over a period of a few months. Most of the photographs were made of the store's regular customers, but many of the strangers who shopped there were too good to resist. Photos from the series were published in LIFE magazine's "Special Bicentennial issue" in 1976 and in Popular Photography's "Invitation to Photography" in 1977. Everyone really enjoyed seeing themselves in print. There are 35 - 40 photographs in the series, of which I'm displaying 10 photographs here.

From the 7-11 store, I got a job doing surveillance for a San Francisco private investigation agency. I was given a 16 mm movie camera and covertly photographed, mostly workers comp insurance claimants, throughout northern California to refute (or substantiate) their physical complaints. The money wasn't bad, the work was usually boring (People didn't always leave their homes) and it wasn't how I wanted to use my talent. But I learned a lot about tracking and being able to anticipate the next move which I found invaluable later as a photojournalist.

During that time, I was contributing photographs to the Point Reyes Light, a 3,000 circulation weekly that won the Pulitzer Prize for its investigation of Synanon while I was there. This was my introduction to news photography. From here I got a job at the Farmington Daily Times in Farmington, New Mexico, worked as a stringer for AP in Albuquerque and eventually landed in the Santa Fe bureau of the Albuquerque Journal. I loved covering news. Santa Fe went through a great deal of growth and popularity in the 80's and through the mid-'90s. It was a great place to live and document for the newspaper and the community.

I left the Journal after ten years to pursue a career as a still photographer doing publicity photography in the motion picture industry. That brought me to Los Angeles. My last production wrapped recently. Now I'm back on the streets searching for my next project as well as trying to make sense of my new environment. Los Angeles is a long way from the open space of New Mexico (or from anything else in the rest of the world, for that matter). This town is always "in your face." Everyone vying for your attention. Signage dominates the landscape as business attracts customers, movies attract viewers and people draw attention to themselves in this visually chaotic landscape. I find so much irony in the way the human element and these signs relate to one another in the environment.

The images are everywhere. I expect this to be an ongoing personal project in between the films. And it is fun. I can definitely see the influence my career change has made in my photographic style. Working in the film industry has taught me to see this environment as the fantasy it represents. Thirteen of the photos are presented here. (All images are as they were found. None of the photos are digitally altered nor was anything or anyone placed in the photo.)

I think it is VERY important to have fun in one's choice of career; photography is fun for me because it is always presenting something new.

Neil Jacobs can be contacted via email at:
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