Worcester, Fitchburg Art Museums Stephen B. Jareckie photography collections photos Holden death

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To say that Stephen B. Jareckie was passionate about photography is an understatement. He practically had a film developer running through his veins, a flash cube that constantly exploded in his head, a genuine eye for the art of photography, and a camera shutter flickering in his heart.

“Maybe the photographs replace the real world or cut out something out of time, but they have their own beauty, just like the photographs, the images on paper, the surface and the various emotions,” Jareckie told the Telegram & Official Journal of October 2002.

Jareckie died on September 25 at the age of 92, but his legacy lives on in two art museums – pretty good for some who had their first encounter with photography at the age of 10 attending a camp summer in New Hampshire.

Long before the company took selfies on its smartphones, Jareckie was the curator of photography at the Worcester Art Museum for almost 35 years.

After “officially” retiring in April 1996, he served as a consulting curator for photography at the Fitchburg Art Museum for more than 20 years.

The longtime Holden resident has made a career of a lifetime scrutinizing, categorizing and appreciating the great works of masters of photography.

“We had cameras in a box and took pictures,” Jareckie told The Evening Gazette in January 1999. “We opened the cameras in a darkroom and printed the pictures. I just got hooked.”

Photos taken for the school yearbook

As a teenager, the Madison, New Jersey native began taking photographs for his 1951 high school yearbook and as a member of the school’s photo club.

As a fine arts student at Lehigh University, Jareckie’s only contact with photography was as a member of the photo club. His father, an eminently practical man, allowed him to specialize in art, but insisted that he take a technical drawing course.

When the Korean War broke out between his junior and senior years, Jareckie was called up to the military. He was allowed to graduate and then spent 15 months working as a staff in Korea.

His experience with both the camera and technical drawing came in handy later, during his graduate studies at Syracuse University, when he conducted a major architectural study of an industrial city in the upstate called New York Mills, a community of unmodified 19th century buildings inspired by those of Lowell.

And he gained his first experience with fine art photography with a curatorial position at the Munson-William-Proctor Institute in Utica, New York.

Jareckie arrived at the Worcester Art Museum in 1961 to serve as the museum’s registrar, keeping the archives of the museum’s collection and arranging for transport when the works were on loan.

Jareckie’s interest in photography was recognized by then museum director Daniel Catton Rich. In 1962, when Rich decided to expand the museum’s collection with photography, he asked Jareckie to be its curator.

For the next 21 years, Jareckie continued to serve as registrar even as he built and organized the museum’s photographic collection. It was not until 1983 that he became the museum’s first full-time curator of photography.

In 1976 he was curator of the huge bicentennial exhibition at the Worcester Art Museum and researched and compiled the substantial catalog for the exhibition.

Collection of photographs of the museum built

Jareckie is often credited with almost single-handedly building the museum’s collection of photographs.

In any given year, he would hold at least one major photography exhibition and four or five minor exhibitions. By the time he retired, the collection would include 1,800 photographic images.

Not only does the collection of the Worcester Art Museum acquired by Jareckie encompass the history of photography, it also reflects the significant technological and aesthetic changes that have taken place.

The collection also includes many of the biggest names to ever look through a lens including Alfred Stieglitz, Mathew Brady, Edward Weston, Walker Evans, Arnold Newman, Margaret Bourke-White, Ansel Adams, Diane Arbus and many more. .

Nancy Burns, Associate Curator of Prints, Drawings and Photographs at the Worcester Art Museum Stoddard, said “it is an honor to continue to benefit from the extraordinary collection” that Jareckie has built up over the years.

“As extraordinary as he was as a Tory, he was even more generous as a colleague,” Burns said of Jareckie. “He was a pioneer in the field, the basis of the Worcester Art Museum’s collection of photographs and a wonderful resource for stories of all kinds.”

Worcester Art Museum Director Emeritus James A. Welu said Jareckie was an invaluable resource on the museum’s history.

“Steve was a wonderful colleague who, during his many years at the Worcester Art Museum, contributed immeasurably to the museum’s pioneering role in the recognition of photography as a legitimate art form,” said Welu.

Among his many exhibitions which he organized at the Fitchburg Art Museum, Jareckie was exceptionally proud of “Ansel Adams in the East: Cruising the Inland Waterway in 1940”, which featured more than four dozen unseen 5-inch prints. , enlarged from 2¼ inch negatives taken by American master Ansel Adams.

Adams’ work still a favorite

Jareckie, who had always loved Adams, marveled that by combining chemistry and optics, one could capture all the richness of life and document important events.

“I’m interested in the versatility of what photography can do,” Jareckie told The Evening Gazette in 2002. “I see a connection between photography and life as we see it. He emphasizes the experiences we have. ”

He continued to catalog, research, and work on exhibits in Fitchburg until he fell ill.

For its regional arts and crafts exhibit, the Fitchburg Art Museum created the Stephen Jareckie Photography Prize.

The director of the Fitchburg Art Museum, Nicholas Capasso, called Jareckie a “giant in his field”.

“He has significantly advanced the medium of photography and has always been generous with his time, intelligence and experience,” said Capasso. “Stephen has dedicated himself to mentoring many curators, collections managers, educators, fellows and interns – and directors – over the years. He enjoyed interacting with his young colleagues and was very proud of their work.

With a reputation for being insightful, knowledgeable and at times a bit offbeat, Jareckie also knew the stories behind the pictures, which always added an extra dimension to the art.

“It’s (the photograph) all over the landscape and, of course, it’s in all the publications. Somehow, in people’s minds, it’s been denigrated, in a sense. , and underestimated. And it always has been, “Jareckie said in 2002.” What you find in photography is that a very small percentage comes to the surface to become classic images or icon images. ”

He leaves his 62-year-old wife, Gretchen; two nephews and four nieces.

A funeral service was held Tuesday at the First Congregational Church in Holden.

A private burial will be held at the Massachusetts National Cemetery in Bourne. Miles Funeral Home, 1158 Main St., Holden, is making arrangements.

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