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San Juan Archipelago, Washington State, United States
A society formed in 2009 for the purpose of collecting, preserving, celebrating, and disseminating the maritime history of the San Juan Islands and northern Puget Sound area. Check this log for tales from out-of-print publications as well as from members and friends. There are circa 650, often long entries, on a broad range of maritime topics; there are search aids at the bottom of the log. Please ask for permission to use any photo posted on this site. Thank you.

06 February 2018

❖ SCAYLEA: 50 YEARS of Honest History Records

Josef Scaylea
Courtesy of Josef Scaylea.com
Josef Scaylea spent a half-century photographing the scenery and faces that make the Northwest a rich, diverse place.
      His work behind the camera included 35 years at the Seattle Times, most as chief photographer, seven books, and more than 1,000 photography awards.
      I was highly overrated," Mr. Scaylea said in an interview, the twinkle in his eye indicating he was at least half-kidding. "I was very fortunate."
      So, too, were readers of The Seattle Times, where Mr. Scaylea's work, beginning in 1947, helped to bring magazine-style photography into weekend sections, onto the front page and, for years, onto a designated picture page.
      "Most any photograph can look good if you blow it up to eight columns," Mr. Scaylea joked.
Josef Scaylea
Loved to capture life below the
Montlake Bridge, Seattle, WA.
Dated August 1950

Low res scan from an original photograph from
the archives of the Saltwater People Historical Society©

      Those who knew Mr. Scaylea best credit his success to the dedication and hard work, not luck. Luck couldn't account for being named West Coast Photographer of the Year 10 times, and being named one of the 10 top Press Photographers of the Nation––also 10 times.
      He pioneered pictorial photography and portrait photography for us," said James B. "Jim" King, retired Times executive editor. "He would go on a pictorial shoot and he would be given two or three days. People would say, 'Where's Joe?' But he would always bring back something great."
      Raised in South Glastonbury, Connecticut farmland by Italian-born parents, Mr. Scaylea developed an interest in photography as he wandered the hills and fields, captivated by the interplay between weather and terrain. Dense, textured clouds were among his favorite features.
      After attending a photography school in New York, he found that with a large number of photo-oriented magazines and trade publications in those days, markets were plentiful for photographers.
Lake Washington 
Josef Scaylea
Black tug, orange trim, 13 April 1952.
Click image to enlarge.
Low res scan from an original photo from the archives
of the Saltwater People Historical Society©
      "Every big company had its own magazine. I did some work for Ford Times. You take a scenic photograph, and if they threw a new Ford in with it, that would help."
      Drafted into the military two days after the Pearl Harbor attack on 7 Dec 1941, Mr. Scaylea shot aerial battles in the Pacific for the Army Air Corps, footage over Japan, Okinawa and the Philippines that continues to show up in television documentaries. Stationed at Paine Field and Moses Lake, WA he discovered the great Northwest, vowing to make it home. He never left his Northwest home until he died at age 91.
      One Seattle Times photo that helped put Mr. Scaylea on the map was an overhead view of the UW crew team, shot from the Montlake Bridge. Look magazine named it the 1954 "Sports Photograph of the Year."
      Other magazines that published his work include Newsweek, Sports Illustrated, Life, and the Saturday Evening Post.
      Mr. Scaylea had suffered from heart disease and told friends that he had enjoyed his life and was ready to let go. And he demanded of a reporter "Don't make me look like a saint."
      Interpreting that remark, Mr. Scaylea's friend, nurse, driver, and business partner Jill Bennett said, "One could say that Josef's 'sainthood' was focused on shooting a technically precise and keenly interesting picture. He loved his subjects; he loved the Northwest. He was an eccentric––full of charm and an impatience for the ordinary."
Salmon fishing seiner near Pt. Roberts, WA.
Josef Scaylea
October 1979

Low res scan of an original photograph from the
archives of the Saltwater People Historical Society©
      Although he photographed many scenes and circumstances, Mr. Scaylea said he never enjoyed photographing celebrities and avoided it as much as possible. 'I wanted to show real people; a farmer in the Palouse, a horse breaker in the Yakima Valley, a Scandinavian fisherman."
Portrait of Capt. Adrian Raynaud
Falls of Clyde in background, Seattle, WA.
Dated 1963
By Josef Scaylea.

Low res scan from an original photo from the
Saltwater People Historical Society©

      In recent years, Bennett drove Mr. Scaylea to some of his favorite spots so he could continue to photograph them even as his health declined. We'd take trips to the Skagit every spring. Grayland in the summer. Leavenworth in the fall. He'd always say on the way; 'This year's going to be my last trip here.' He said that every year, every trip."
      And he loved to pass along this bit of wisdom to people both in and out of photography; "There are no great photographers," he'd say, "There are only great subjects."
Words by Jack Broom. Seattle Times, 21 July 2004, on the occasion of Scaylea's death at age 91 years. Photograph source as noted.

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