18th Annual Palo Alto Weekly Photo Contest
First Place, Peninsula People


"Kai's First Train Ride"
By Jack Simon

About Jack Simon

Click on photo for larger image.

As a psychiatrist, Jack Simon looks at verbal and visual cues in his patients in order to expose a deeper psychological dilemma. He does not take the same approach with his photography -- at least, not consciously.

“Initially I was just interested in what was there visually," Simon says. "It's kind of the opposite of what I do in psychiatry. That's what attracted me."

In "Kai's First Train Ride," Simon was not looking to expose any deep meaning. He was simply documenting his grandson.

"What I was seeing was a charming little story playing out between these two boys and Spider-Man," Simon says, adding that he did not expect to capture his grandson's interesting -- perhaps haunting -- reflection. "My daughter isn't crazy about that photograph, actually, because of the way his face looks."

He doesn't read into the photograph or suppose any kind of hidden meaning, however.

"I don't really have an interpretation, because I was there and I know what was happening," Simon explains. The interpretation is for viewers to decide. He likes to present ambiguous and commonplace situations with his photography and let the audience do the rest.

Simon would venture that, while his pictures don't necessarily have any greater significance than what is plain to see, perhaps his photographer's mind works in concert with his professional training.

"As in psychiatry, there is a bit of the unconscious that plays a role in the pictures I take," he says. "A lot of times I may be surprised with what I've captured. Some of that is luck and some of that is perhaps something that I was unconsciously aware of when I took the picture."

Simon, who lived in Palo Alto for 40 years, is pleased to be recognized by the Palo Alto Weekly. And even though the two categories he took this year are the same two he won last year, he says that he was surprised all the same.

"It feels great," he says. "I had no idea I'd ever win a contest, period. Mostly what I'm doing is in a vacuum. Most people don't see what I do. It is a rewarding feeling."

"When I first started with the camera, I suppose I enjoyed taking pictures of almost anything. Then it moved to liking to find more exotic scenes. What really challenges me and interests me most is trying to find a meaningful or interesting image even in ordinary circumstances."

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