When Rick Gerrity was younger, he jumped into his 1977 Land Cruiser and headed to Maine to photograph bears. His only photo gear was an Instamatic camera his mother had given him. Surprisingly, he got some good pictures. “The lens on the Instamatic meant that I had to get up close and personal with the bears,” he says. “That’s when I learned the value of long lenses.”
The story illustrates Gerrity’s picture-taking style. He’s the quintessential in-life’s-face photographer, and his forte, in addition to a clean and flawless technical style, is his ability to relate to a wide range of people. “I try to find people and places that take me to another side of life. Hard working people—truckers, construction workers and first responders—are my favorite subjects,” he says.
Gerrity actually backed into his photographic career. After moving from New Jersey to West Virginia in late 1970s, he needed a job and found work as a photo assistant. “The guy I worked for did quite a variety of jobs, including weddings, events and construction photography. One of his clients was even a skydiving club,” he says. “I eventually bought half the business. When things started to slow down, I decided to come back home to New Jersey.”
Gerrity had a hard time finding clients and ended up taking a position in a family-run bronze foundry. “I had to work on the foundry floor pouring bronze at 2,250 degrees. However, it was a great place to make photographs,” he says. “I saved money and bought a Hasselblad medium-format camera and soon was producing brochures and annual reports for our company as well as others in the industry.”
Then, in 1983, he ran into an old high-school friend who was shooting concerts for Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty and other performers by night and working for an advertising photographer during the day. “They were looking for an assistant for 8×10 and 4×5 camera work, and I was willing to learn, so they gave me a shot,” says Gerrity. “I worked for many top agencies around the country and had work published worldwide.” In 1996, he opened Gerrity Photographic Inc. and, he says, he’s never looked back.
Recently, Gerrity spoke with writer and photographer Jeff Wignall about his his career and his straight-up style of photography.