Saturday, October 10, 2009

Uncle Jim

Jim Colton has been a part of the Eddie Adams Workshop for nearly two decades. Currently the photography editor at Sports Illustrated, Colton has been a top photo exec at Newsweek and Sipa Press, but sees his ongoing role with the Workshop as among the most rewarding things he does in his life and career. "You are the chosen ones," he told students during his Friday night talk, and then proceeded to lay down the law, demanding mutual respect among the students, faculty and staff. "We will not coddle you. We will not pick up after you." He then instructed each person in the barn to turn to the one closest to them and say, "I love you." It was Uncle Jim's tough-love fest.

For most of his years at Barnstorm, he's been there with his father, Sandy Colton, another leading photo professional who was equally dedicated to the Workshop, even as his health began to fail in recent years. Four days before last year's Workshop, the former Associated Press director of photography suffered a heart attack, but checked himself out of the hospital so he could get up to the Farm. He died Christmas Day.

“When he passed away, I got so many emails from people saying, ‘The person who influenced me the most was your dad, when I got to sit down and talk with him for five minutes. He made me feel like I belonged here,’" said Jim Colton. "That’s really what this workshop is all about.”

Sandy Colton was also an active collector of photojournalism, and had gathered a staggering collection of signed prints by Pulitzer Prize-winners. His family has now taken that collection of photos, along with new donations from the likes of James Nachtwey and Neil Leiffer, to the Christie's auction house for evaluation. The estimated value is in the tens of thousands, and the Colton family plans to donate the proceeds to the Eddie Adams Workshop to create an annual award in Sandy's name for “the student who best embodies the spirit of the workshop,” said his son. (More details to come on Monday.)

Jim Colton stood before the gathered students again Saturday morning, and presented a stirring collection of sports photography drawn from the "Leading Off" section of Sports Illustrated. And he invited students to keep in touch long after Barnstorm was over, to "email Uncle Jim." He promised to reply, to be a sounding board and career counselor.

“It’s a very magical place here," Colton said after announcing the award. “The network, the family, is really a remarkable -- and it's emotional to me -- group of people. It’s important everybody remembers that everybody here is our brothers and sisters. We should keep that family bond no matter what happens.”

Steve Appleford

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