Kam Jacoby – Photographer for the Ages

For the past 8 months, I have been thrilled to host our Words to Live by Speaker Series every Friday night.  What started as a trial has become a tradition.  Each week we feature a new speaker at Babi’s Tasting room and this past week we had our very own local photographer Kam Jacoby, who discussed his photography process.  His work will surely become a rich legacy here in the Santa Ynez Valley as he infuses texture, history, perspective and detective work into stunning photographs that scan the decades making time itself an anachronism.


What Kam told us was that he enjoys creating portraits of a place and time for passersby to investigate on their own.  Oftentimes, the photographs would probably never be seen by anyone but himself, because, after all, that moment, like all moments, are simply fleeting.  The emphasis on the moment is all that matters, and perhaps the memory, as well.   Though who actually was affected or touched by the memory we have no idea.  That is the mystery and the method of an artist’s madness.

Grants Motel

Photo taken along one of Kam’s many cross-country road trips.

Kam also told us about his wonderment with intention, as in this photograph above.  What was the intention of this sign?  Who placed it there?  Kam did not.  He merely happened upon the sign and its juxtaposition in front of the trees.  Who put it here and why?


This brings me to wine, of course.  Grapes are harvested, juice is fermented, barreled and aged, then eventually bottled and brought to market.  Who does it touch?  Who does is affect?  Who shared the bottle for what occasion?  And then again, does it matter?  Oftentimes I am lucky to get feedback from folks who share their own photos.  And yet, in an age when photos are now a dime a dozen – where everyone is seemingly a photographer with a myriad of filters at their fingertips all across the world – these images are added to the rest.  Maybe one day someone will eventually view them again.  If they haven’t deleted them from their email or cell phone.


There was a time though when photography was not prevalent.  And believe it or not, many parts of the world, many people in the world have never seen their own photograph.  My grandmother, Babi Ilinka, told me a story about her childhood growing up in a small village in Macedonia. It was the late 1950’s and only one man in the village had a camera that his father had sent him from Germany.  He was so proud of this camera and his ability to take photos that he went around to all the celebrations in the village – birthdays, anniversaries, births, weddings – and took photographs of the parties.  He then developed the film and printed out photos, which was quite a costly endeavor back then.  He proudly gifted each of the photos to his subjects, only to have them turn to him in disgust asking why on earth he would give them such an ugly rendering of themselves.  Poor guy.  He stopped taking photographs of the very people who had never even owned a photograph before in their lives.  Let alone of photograph of themselves.


How do we cherish the moments that are so fleeting, only to have them filtered and eventually forgotten through time?  Hopefully we will be doing it with a glass of good wine.