Jack Fields, former SJSU PJ Prof: a great teacher, photographer, person
While talking to SJSU Alum Kim Komenich yesterday I learned about the recent passing of former SJSU JMC visiting professor Jack Fields. Jack was at SJSU when Kim and I went through the PJ program. He was our photojournalism teacher. Here is what is on the San Francisco Bay Area Press Photographers Association website about Jack:
Retired freelance magazine photographer Jack Fields, former San Jose State University photojournalism instructor, died of heart failure on December 13 at his Placerville home. He was 87.
Fields served for three years as "Visiting Professor" at SJSU in the late 1970's. While at SJSU he pioneered what he called a "no-nonsense" approach to photography, a subject that was often taught as "pure art" at many universities.
Fields was founding chairman of the Bay Area chapter of the American Society of Magazine Photographers in an era when Wayne Miller, Ansel Adams, Dorothea Lange and Imogen Cunningham were members of the organization.
As a young boy in Kansas, Fields dreamed of "far-away places with strange sounding names". After a formal education and a wartime stint in the South Pacific, Fields embarked upon a 50-year career, traveling on assignment for Collier's, Saturday Evening Post, National Geographic, Smithsonian, Look, and Life.
Before World War II, Fields earned a Bachelor's degree in Science from Kansas State College. He was planning to teach but was sent to New Guinea with the armed forces where he began taking pictures. He was assigned as a photographer for the Air Force?s Yank Magazine when he contracted tuberculosis and was returned to the U.S. to recuperate. While at Cragmor Sanitorium in Colorado Springs, Fields met Dorothy Gindling, also a patient and fellow TB sufferer, whom he married in 1948.
After five years of recuperation, the Fields moved to Los Angeles where Jack attended the Art Center College of Design while Dorothy enrolled in writing classes at the Maren Elwood School. As an art student, he sold his first photos to Look Magazine. After completing their studies, the Fields traveled to Europe, working on assignment for various publications.
The Fields became known for their ability to find interesting, yet untold stories, especially in the South Pacific. In 1971 they approached a Japanese publisher with an Idea for an all-encompassing book on the region which became their 1973 book "South Pacific".
Fields was the first photojournalist to report on Micronesia after it became a U.S. Trust at the end of WWII. His photograph of a laser pioneer at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center was used as a reference image for a commemorative stamp issued by the U.S. Postal Service in August, 1999.
I remember Jack very well. He was a wonderful guy and a great teacher. In 1994 we gave Jack and Dorothy our dog Reno, a black and white Shetland Sheepdog and he had a loving home with them. Jack lived a good life and he still lives on in the hearts, and the eyes, of many of us who knew him.