PAWTUCKET — He's tackled such subjects as street people in New York City and three generations of Welfare recipients, and has done photo shoots with the likes of Henry Kissinger, Hilary Clinton, Norman Mailer and Bianca Jagger. Now, photojournalist Jesse Nemerofsky is focusing his lens on the city of Pawtucket.
Nemerofsky has been working as a professional photographer for over 25 years. Currently associated with Zuma International News Agency, he is a highly regarded photojournalist whose work has been published in Time, Newsweek, USA Today, Vanity Fair, the New York Times and Businessweek, along with other newspapers and magazines.
Besides his photojournalism work, Nemerofsky has also done fashion shoots for such clients as Benetton and Joan and David, and product photography for numerous local manufacturers. A recent assignment had him capturing medical procedures on film for an area hospital.
Originally from Canada, Nemerofsky has been working in Rhode Island for over two decades. For about 10 years, he had a studio in downtown Providence above the old Lupo's Heartbreak Hotel, a building which was filled with other professional photographers. During this period, he concentrated on fashion and product shoots.
Nemerofsky also lived for a time in the Oak Hill section of Pawtucket, where he grew to enjoy and appreciate the city. When he learned of a space that became available in the Pawtucket Armory building, he jumped at the chance to set up a new office and studio there. Once again, he finds himself in the company of other photographers, videographers and artists who maintain offices and studios in the historic building.
During the second phase of his career, Nemerofsky traveled extensively, working as a photojournalist. These were the days when news photographers shot photos on color slide film that would be quickly processed and sent off to the news outlet by Federal Express. This period was where he met and mingled with the powerful, rich and famous, and he has a collection of head shots to prove it.
Nemerofsky noted that living in Rhode Island, with its active political scene and numerous academic institutions, gave him a gateway to visiting politicians and policy makers, movie stars, fashion icons and other luminaries. “Vartan Gregorian, the former Brown president, gave me access to a lot of events. I would be able to spend some time one-on-one with the person in an office or a library or something before or after their function,” he explained.
This is how he assembled a portfolio of highly recognizable faces, which he considered to be a good way of making a name for himself in the crowded photography field. “I thought that having a portfolio of extremely serious people gave you power as a photographer,” he stated. Many of these famous head shots are on display at the Camera Werks on Hope Street in Providence.
These days, Nemerofsky, who is largely self-taught, says he is interested in shooting photo documentaries on various subjects. He prefers to shoot his digital images in black and white from the start, rather than using a software program to transform a color image. He thinks black and white photos convey his ideas better than color. “I'm working in the spirit of the great photographer Eugene Smith, who did a book called “Pittsburgh,” says Nemerofsky.
In choosing to document his adopted hometown, Nemerofsky said he seeks to find “the real Pawtucket.” He said he knows the city goes much beyond the Oak Hill neighborhood he once lived in and he wants to explore all of its different neighborhoods and their nuances. “I see it as a lower middle class, working class town. I know it was once industrial, but I don't see it that way anymore. And I want to learn about its ethnic groups. I want to investigate what's here.”
Nemerofsky has also set up his studio, in room 304 on the third floor of the Pawtucket Armory, to do head shots for business professionals, actors, performers, and models, as well as product and other types of commercial photography. He will also do photography on location.
Nemerofsky is proud to say that his head shots offer something different from the traditional look, as he works closely with the client to craft an image that captures their personality. “I have been looking at people's faces for 30 years, and you acquire a certain skill. I know how to quickly assess people, make them comfortable and work with them to make them open up and reveal their experiences,” he said. “I work from a bare studio environment and build a look that's going to come from the person. Everyone can recognize truth in a picture.”