New Jersey native Jim Lowney is a photographer and writer. He writes our Jersey Irish Blog.
Was your community badly affected by Hurricane Sandy?
“The winds beat us up pretty well in Kenilworth, with many homes damaged by falling trees and a week without power. Sandy did great damage to Long Beach Island. It will be a good few years until things are close to right on the Jersey Shore.”
Tell us about your Irish heritage.
“My mother is from just outside Charlestown, Co. Mayo. My father’s mother was from Coleraine, Co. Derry and his father was from Castletownbere, West Cork.”
What is your earliest memory of Ireland?
“A summer visit as a seven-year-old in 1977 rolls into one glorious memory, especially days on Uncle John and Luke Duffy’s farm in Mayo. Their plow was pulled by a donkey, they made hay with wooden rakes featuring whittled teeth, and the eggs were boiled in a Batchelors pea can over the fireplace.”
Who is your favorite photographer and why?
“I don’t have a favorite. I enjoy and respect all photographers who tell a story well with a sharp eye and who move you and make you think.
“My news photographer father taught me how to shoot before I was a teenager. Then my other mentors — Don Smith, Bill Bayer and Don McCoy — at my first newspaper jobs taught me more.
“You never stop learning. I continue to study the work of the late greats like Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Capa and my friend Chris Hondros who was killed working in Libya two years ago.
“Every day I follow and study the work of my friends Tyler Hick, Spencer Platt and Mario Tama, along with photojournalists everywhere. I am always inspired my them.”
You lived in Hungary for a period and worked with the Budapest Business Journal. How did this compare to your experience in American photo houses?
“My years at the Budapest Business Journal in the mid-1990s were part of an amazing experience of living and working abroad. I moved to Dublin from New Jersey for six months and ended up in Europe for eight years, including living in Barcelona, Budapest and Warsaw.
“Going from being local newspaper photographer in the States to shooting international stories like the Troubles in Belfast and the war in Bosnia is a major leap. You have to learn quickly.”
Tell us about your exhibition “48 Hours in Sarajevo.”
“That was my one and only exhibit back in 1996 about the last days of the war in Sarajevo. It was a big part of my work at the time and I am still proud of the pictures.”
Do you think the Internet makes it difficult to earn a living a photographer?
“Technology has changed the game. If you don’t change with it, you are dead professionally.”
Describe your idea of a perfect photo in three words.
“Give me four — true, intelligent, emotion and geometry.”
Where does the term “the luck of the Irish” come from?