Jerry Stoll Photography

About Jerry

Jerry Stoll, portrait by Stephen LighthillJerry Stoll's career in photography, filmmaking, and writing, spans more than three decades and has produced a wide spectrum of artistry. Working out of San Francisco, New York, and Washington, D.C., he authored several books and pictorial essays, and has written/directed, and produced many documentary films.

Jerry's formal education was in the field of philosophy and history in which he majored at the University of Minnesota and San Francisco State University.  However, his knowledge of the fine arts and of photography came from a long personal study. 


Photography was a relatively late development.  As co-founder and one of the presidents of Bay Area Photographers, Jerry was a major participant in the in the renowned exhibit titled San Francisco Weekend, which won the Award of Merit at the San Francisco Art Festival in 1955. This Exhibit was purchased by the San Francisco Arts Commission, exhibited at the San Francisco Museum of Art, and then shown internationally through 1957 by the U.S. Information Agency, as a representation of American Culture. 

I Am a LoverOther co-founders of Bay Area Photographers included Gini Stoll, Perkle Jones, Paul Hassell, Chic Lloyd, Jaqueline Paul, and Phiz Mozesson; and notable among the members were Ruth Bernhard, Imogen Cunningham, Wayne Miller and Allen Willis, among others. San Francisco Weekend was followed by a second large group show, San Francisco Discovery, at the De Young Museum in 1956.

His  first photographic book, I Am a Lover, was published in 1961. The photographs from the book were exhibited as a one man show at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco, and at the Hallmark Gallery in New York City.  

This was followed by a major art book, Our San Francisco, co-authored with the photographers Michael Bry,  Ernest Braun, Phiz Mozzesson & Jackie Paul; with text by Harold Gilliam, Herb Caen, Art Hoppe, Kenneth Rexroth & Ralph Gleason.


Jerry Stoll, Monterey Jazz FestivalHis work during eight years as resident photographer of the Monterey Jazz Festival created a series of unique visual documents and a large photographic library on the history of jazz. The early years of the Festival, when Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, and Duke Ellington shared their musical stage with the new creative generation of Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and Ornette Coleman, marked a very special period in the development of this music.

Although Jerry's Photographs of the great jazz musicians represent only a portion of his visual art, he considers it to have special significance because of our African American cultural heritage which he considered the single most dynamic factor in shaping the art, music, drama, and literature of the Americas during the 20th century.

During the year 1996 the Smithsonian Institution, under the direction of jazz composer and performer Anthony Brown, produced a six hour oral history of Jerry Stoll's personal and visual association with American jazz.

In the early 60s, beginning with an essay on the yet unorganized migrant farm workers, Jerry was actively documenting the deep social changes taking place in the wider fields of civil rights. He had always been a committed political activist.  Jerrys committment to the socially intense human element of his photography is derived through the documentary and journalistic bent of his art.


Jerry Stoll & Stephen LighthillIn 1964 he began to work in film.  His senario on the war in Viet Nam evolved into the feature length documentary, Sons and Daughters, released in 1967.

Sons and Daughters, created with cinematographer Stephen Lighthill, won the Golden Dove for best picture at the International Documentary Film Festival in Leipzig, Germany. Jerry received the award for Best Director. The film won other awards and acclaim at Edinburg, Locarno, Moscow, Chicago, New York, and Melbourne; and was widely shown on Canadian and European television, as well as distributed in film form. 

American Documentary Films posterJerry was the founder and president of American Documentary Films Inc., a communications & educational non-profit corporation based in San Francisco and New York. Others associated with ADF included Sally Pugh, David Castro, Stephen Lighthill, and Nelson Stoll, among others; and together they produced multiple films and distributed more than 200 documentaries on a wide spectrum of vital social issues.  Among these are the films Huey, on the Black Panther Party; and Conversations with Daniel Ellsberg, about the Pentagon Papers.

American Documentary Films organized the ill-fated Cuban Film Festival, which after its debut in New York City was shut down by the US State and Treasury Departments.  Because the festivals subject was Cuba, the charge was that it was a violation of the Trading with the Enemy act. 

Social Activist

In conjunction with National Atomic Scientists and the women's organization, Another Mother For Peace, Jerry, using the distribution resources of American Documentary Films, helped begin the successful national campaign to end nuclear power development in the United States.

Resident in Washington D.C. and an active member in the National Organization of Women, N.O.W., Jerry was one of the small group of initial organizers of the Karen Silkwood case.  In 1975  N.O.W. published his treatise, The Economic and Political History of the Women's Movement in the United States,  for use at the International Women's Conference held in Mexico City that year.


Jerry Stoll in his studioFor the last twenty years of his life, he returned to the subjects of his university education in the fields of history and philosophy,  researching and writing an unfinished book on ancient art history which fundamentally re-evaluates the social history of art and language.  The volumes cover the neolithic period (5000 b.c.) to the destruction of the early great pagan civilizations and their art by the developing social institutions of patriarchy, and the later destruction of women's history by early Christianity (400 to 800 a.d.)

Based upon his deep knowledge of the Ancient Egyptian civilization, this new history is seen from a special and distinct African perspective.   He demonstrates a significant and dynamic parallel between the formative contribution of the African Egyptian culture upon the later Greek and Roman civilizations, and then in our contemporary period of the African and African American culture and art upon our Modern Society.

Just as the Egyptians fundamentally shaped the Old World, Jerry thought the Modern World is being transformed by our contemporary Third World cultures and particularly by our African American heritage.  Because of the seminal role of women in the early civilizations of Egypt and Mesopotamia, the title of this unfinished work is, The Birth and Death of the Sky Goddess.


Jerry passed away in his Studio in Oakland, California on January 20th 2004.