Secrets of Success 2012

Photographer Jim Ginny – from IBM to framing business

By From page SOS8 | December 31, 2012


PHOTOGRAPHER JIM GINNEY holds a photograph of Emerald Bay he printed on canvas in his studio in Lotus. Democrat photo by Shelly Thorene

By Hollywood standards, Jim Ginney is a rebel. You wouldn’t know it by his gentle manner and self-effacing style, though. He doesn’t sport a nose ring, ink-up his skin or wear toxic T-shirt messages. But he is authentic, having accomplished what others swear they’re going to do “someday.” He quit a great job and followed the voice.

Ginney used to be a product analyst for IBM in San Jose, laboring for years in a white shirt and tie. “It was back in the dark ages,” he half-jokes. The engineer worked on IBM’s fledging laser reprographics color systems — graphics via technology.

Although primitive by today’s mind-numbing computer-generated imagery, the IBM products awakened Ginney’s creative muses.

“I was always a strong visualist. In fact, I was going to be an architect, but got seduced by the commercial possibilities of machine graphics. My job at IBM put me on the analytical side of these systems, not the creative side.”

He remembers the pivotal time. “Fortunately, I suffered from an incurable attraction to form, color, and style. I was drawn to composition analysis, and point-of-interest variables. In other words, computer technology was vital but the art itself had to be in my future.”

Photographic arts intrigued him the most. Like a moth to flame, Ginney began an affair with his camera, composing and capturing everything in his path. His darkroom became an editing studio, light became a tool for dramatic license. His edgy development work suggested the coming fusion of photography and painting.

In 1979, Ginney went rogue. Walking away from IBM, he dumped the Porsche and the house. For the next four years he became photographer-in-residence in Death Valley, then Homer, Alaska. “I thought of myself as a hippie,” he grins, “but that ship had sailed. At 38, I was too old.”

Along the way he discovered his teaching muse, and soon was holding workshops in Sun Valley under the banner, the Itinerant Photographer. “I helped folks find voice in the visual world. Still do.” He also visited Lake Tahoe frequently, where his parents lived. His mountain photography became popular, and was featured in galleries throughout the West.

Placerville was a convenient stop-off along the way to the Sierra, and by 1984 the restless visualist settled here. But making a living in Hangtown would prove difficult, so Ginney began tutoring, and selling his nature studies locally. He couldn’t find a framer, so he learned how to frame on his own. His exactness to detail and artistic judgment was soon admired by local artists and he found himself in the framing business.

Digital photography and design software grabbed his imagination, and he mastered the early versions of Photoshop and other image enhancement programs.

“It was eye-opening to realize darkrooms were becoming dinosaurs. Light manipulation which had so successfully produced contrast and color variations in my earlier work, was better done by clicking a computer mouse. It still blows my mind.”

Ever a pusher of the graphic arts, in 1986 Ginney responded to a call from Cosumnes River College, (now Folsom Lake College) to teach traditional photography and Photoshop. It was a natural fit, and the gig lasted 20 years.

The photographer-teacher-framer-technologist developed a loyal following among serious foothill painters. “There’s a lack of quality in today’s world,” he laments. He glances around the studio. “But not here. Not with me.”

Never content with the status-quo, Ginney began producing giclees (zhee-clays), elegant prints requiring critical process knowledge, priceless experience, and a healthy engineering sense.

“I use the Epson 9890 printer with 100-year-inks on a variety of special papers which I’ve found over the years,” he stated. “Works great.”

Quality-minded Ginney has made good friends with local art luminaries, including the late Thomas Kinkade, famous “painter of light.” The bond endured until the artist’s untimely demise in 2012. “Tom taught me to put in-progress work on a rack that I would have to see in a fresh way every time I entered the room. What a fabulous tip! I still do it.”

Nationally acclaimed painter Wendy Mattson uses Ginney for nearly all her framing work.

“Jim has been my framer for years, his work is outstanding,” gushes the renown Placerville artist. “He’s all about quality and judgment. And Jim is one of the most sincere individuals I’ve known in the field.”

After 20 years in an office on Placerville Drive, Ginney now operates from his home studio. “Time to consolidate a little bit,” relates the venerable senior, “and reorganize, maybe.”

He shares the facility with wife Kolsoum, an artist and teacher of College Success, a long-running course designed to optimize the college learning experience. “There’s enough space for both of us,” she smiles.

The risk-taking Jim Ginney, who traded economic safety for creative path-finding, has become a one-man tour d’force in all things photographic and artistic. The three rails of his expertise, the camera, canvas and computer, have narrowed into a single integrated discipline. Each element bears witness to his innovation, education, instinct, experience, and spirit. The techno-creative fusion begun in that IBM reprographics lab a lifetime ago, has come full circle. The artistically minded engineer has indeed become the technology minded artist.

He can be reached at 530 626 1124.

Peter Tyner

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