MAGICAL LENSMAN RENOWNED PHOTOGRAPHER CAPTURES THE SPIRIT OF PLACE BY HEATHER BRYCE, Article from 2017 Hamptons Real Estate Showcase
When Jake Rajs published his 2008 book, These United States, with an introduction by Walter Cronkite, Reader’s Digest wrote: “Not since Ansel Adams turned his lens on the Snake River has a photographer so gloriﬁed the American landscape.” Well-deserved kudos indeed.
When I photograph a landscape,” he says. “I try to capture the miracle that there is nothing more beautiful and perfect than what is created by nature.”
Born in Poland in 1952, the photographer arrived in New York by boat at age eight where he was awed by the city sunrise that welcomed him to the “land of magic.”
Known for his architectural and landscape imagery in which he aims to “capture the spirit of a place,” the award-winning photographer’s works have been featured in countless magazines including, Time, Life, Newsweek, National Geographic and Reader’s Digest (in which he was voted Best American Photographer). His ﬁne art prints are in numerous museums and private collections worldwide.
The proliﬁc shutterbug, who lives in Westhampton Beach, has published 18 books thus far including three on the East End. He was lured originally to the North Fork by Monacelli Press, a publishing house that wanted him for a book on that area. Once he “fell in love with the light of the East End and its farming and rural quality,” he moved there to Orient, then Southold. The resulting tome was Between Sea and Sky: Landscapes of Long Island’s North Fork.
His book on the South Fork, Beyond the Dunes: A Portrait of the Hamptons, boasts an introduction by Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Paul Goldberger. His third book on the East End is a combination of the two earlier ones: Portrait of Long Island: The North Fork and the Hamptons.
In his 40-year career, Rajs has compiled an archive of more than half a million images. When focusing his camera – he switched to a digital Nikon in 2006 – he looks for several factors: ﬁrst the “quality of the light,” he says. “Light talks to you; it has a consciousness. It almost sings, if it’s right it’s a symphony.”
He also looks for form, a sense of “balance and harmony in the space.” And of course, he looks for color. As a former painter, he can gauge the emotional impact of various hues. Putting all the elements together he hopes to create a “piece of art that moves the spirit.”
Besides his ﬁne art photography, which he sells, he does commercial work. He has worked on national ad campaigns for companies such as American Express, AT&T, Nike, and Citicorp. He photographs for Advertising Agencies and Real Estate Developers in New York City and the United States.
On the East End, he has made a name for himself shooting houses for landscape architects and top real estate brokers including Tim Davis, Beata Moore, and Ed Petrie. He has shot the homes of Christie Brinkley, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Richard Gere, L.A, Reid, and Vincent Camuto’s Villa Maria. He admits to “love” shooting important estates, which feature “beautiful artwork, architecture and garden design.”
He hopes one day to publish a book on homes of the East End. “You can tell so much more about a person through their home than through their portrait.”
His current books, published by Rizzoli was released in October -- Coastal California: The Paciﬁc Coast Highway and Beyond -- boasts a foreword by Governor Jerry Brown.
“Sometimes a book takes 30 years to accomplish,” he says. He starts with a narrative in his head, and as the concept develops collects images he “may need to tell the story.”
Of all his images, does he have one that stands out? “My favorite,” he says, “is the next one I’m going to take.”