Jake RajsFebruary 9, 2023 2023-02-09 9:34
Jake Rajs was born in Poland on March 26, 1952, to Julius Rajs and Janina Rudzinski Rajs. The family lived in Israel for three years before immigrating to the United States in 1960. After graduating from high school in Irvington, N.J., in 1970, inspired by Jack Kerouac’s novel “On the Road,” Mr. Rajs began photographing America while hitchhiking from one coast to the other.
Over the course of his 50-year career, he published 18 fine-art photography books, among them “These United States,” with an introduction by Walter Cronkite, “New York: City of Islands,” with a foreword by Pete Hamill, and “The Twin Towers: Moments in Time.”
His publications also included “Beyond the Dunes: A Portrait of the Hamptons” and “Between Sea and Sky: Landscapes of Long Island’s North Fork.” Mr. Rajs moved from New York City to Orient Point in 2006 and lived in Westhampton Beach from 2015 until shortly before his death.
His photographs were featured in Time, Life, Newsweek, The New York Times, Esquire, Town and Country, and National Geographic, among many others, and his fine-art prints are in museums and private collections around the world. More than 110 prints, the largest collection of his work, are on display at the Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead.
He graduated from Rutgers University with a B.A. in studio art in 1974. Soon after, he had a providential encounter on the observation deck of the Empire State Building. While speaking with a stranger about photography, he mentioned his desire to work for the color photography pioneer Pete Turner. The man not only turned out to be Turner’s assistant, but told Rajs he was about to leave the job. Mr. Rajs’s work with Turner, and later the renowned photographer Jay Maisel, helped launch his career.
During a lifetime spent traveling the globe, Mr. Rajs amassed an archive of more than half a million images, including 10,000 shots of the World Trade Center. In an interview for Rangefinder magazine after the publication of “These United States,” he spoke about his working process.
Jake Rajs, of whom Reader’s Digest magazine said, “Not since Ansel Adams . . . has a photographer so glorified the American landscape,” died of cancer on May 25 at the home of his sister, Frances Wagner, in Scotch Plains, N.J. He was 68 and had been ill for five months.