Jack Zilker is a local photographer who has been working and photographing the work of Houston artists for over 60 years. He has volunteered for over nine years to photograph our exhibition galleries, our building, objects for sale in Asher Gallery, and various other projects. His photographs provide an extremely valuable record of our exhibition history, illustrate our gallery spaces to new artists, and are used for promotional purposes. We are forever grateful to volunteers like Jack, who not only take time out of their day to volunteer but also donate services that save HCCC thousands of dollars. We asked Jack to sit down and share a little bit about his history in photography and time at HCCC.
What made you want to be a photographer?
I sold my first photograph at 15, and that was almost two centuries ago. I thought it was the most wonderful experience and it was more fun than saving empty Coke bottles and selling them back to the stores for 2 cents a piece.
How long have you been a photographer in Houston?
I was born and raised in Houston. When I was in junior high, my parents were building a home in a newer part of Houston. One day, I was walking around with my camera, taking pictures of these houses under construction, when a contractor stopped and asked me to sell him the photographs. I realized that, with all the development in this neighborhood, I could take pictures and then put a notice on the house about the pictures for sale. I turned my parents’ bathroom into a darkroom, and that’s how I started my photography in Houston.
What is a favorite memory from volunteering at HCCC?
I’m not sure which exhibition this event was related to, and I suppose it might be a self-serving answer, but I remember a juror’s advice during an opening. The juror was taking everyone on a walk through the gallery before the event was to start. While in the exhibit, explaining his choices, he stopped to tell the audience about a recent visit to some nearby galleries. He proceeded to tell them about how he saw some work in the galleries that had been submitted for the show, but that he did not select it. He explained how, had he seen good photographs of those works, he would have selected the pieces for the exhibit. I applauded his advice, because artists who don’t have good photographs really do themselves an injustice, and this juror did a great job of explaining why photographs are necessary.