Jerry Jacka made this photograph of Walpi, on First Mesa, for the September 1980 issue of Arizona Highways. The image was — purely — the result of Jerry’s extraordinary relationship with the Hopi people.
“I contacted the village chief, and he allowed me to take the photograph,” Jerry told us when the image appeared in 100 Greatest Photographs. “I was not allowed to use a tripod. As I was in my vehicle, I rested the camera on the open door and snapped the picture.”
It was — as were all of Jerry’s photographs that both preceded and succeeded Walpi — magic.
“My parents always had the magazine lying around, and I saw one photograph by Ray Manley that just struck me,” he said. “He had shot some Indian artifacts, and there were some artifacts around when I was in high school that I had tried to photograph. I had a dream that one day my images would appear in Arizona Highways.”
It happened in 1958, when a “gosh awful” shot of the Painted Desert Jerry made during his honeymoon with his beloved wife, Lois, appeared in the July issue. In the years since, hundreds of his images have run on the pages of the magazine.
There were photographs of Indian pottery and jewelry, sweeping landscapes of Canyon de Chelly, even more intimate portraits of now-inaccessible destinations on the Navajo Nation, autumn leaves. So much more.
But Jerry Jacka was more than a contributor. He was a mentor. A storyteller. An artist. A historian. An accordion player. Husband. Father. Grandfather. He was a friend. So many times, he remembered details of Highways’ history that we’d forgotten or never known.
He was a tall man with big hands, a bigger laugh and a giant heart.
Jerry died at his ranch on the Mogollon Rim on Sunday morning.
Lois was there. The people who loved him most were there, too. And, undoubtedly, they will, as will Arizona Highways, preserve his remarkable legacy.
— Kelly Vaughn, Managing Editor