It was during a recent phone conversation with Robert Asman of Alchemy-Ink, that I learned that Joe Nettis had passed away. Joe was a Philadelphia based commercial photographer with a long and illustrious career. He began taking photographs at 12 years of age and shot for his high school newspaper and yearbook. After graduation he attended Philadelphia College of Art, which is now University of the Arts. He took a bicycle trip through Europe and National Geographic published a selection of his Images. Joe then persuaded National Geographic to Sponsor him on a round the world journey. He became a contributor to Life Magazine and his image of Adlai Stevenson appeared on the cover. He went on to shoot for other magazines as well as do corporate and advertising work both on location and in the studio. He also made commercial and documentary films. He was a contributor to several stock photography agencies. Joe was always making photographs with or without an assignment. He was a longtime member and supporter of The American Society of Media Photographers.
I met Joe when I was working at Asman Custom Photo shortly after moving to Philadelphia. Robert (I call him Bob) did the printing and I processed film and made contact prints. Bob’s lab was on the third floor and Joe’s studio was on the second floor. Joe would call when he had film to be processed and I’d run down the steps to pick it up and get very specific directions as to how it should be processed and printed. Joe was a perfectionist about his processing and printing just as he was about every aspect of his photography and it showed in his work. While we were a custom lab and handled each clients job with care, Joe always got special treatment. I learned a lot about what and how to photograph by viewing his negatives in the drying cabinet on the light table and under the enlarger.
As much as I enjoyed lab work I really wanted to be a shooter. After I got to know Joe I offered to assist him for free. Just so happens he had a shoot the next day. It was to photograph a Showgirl for the cover of Atlantic City Magazine. Joe took me up on my offer. Not only was that my first time assisting on a photo shoot but it was my first time in Atlantic City. Despite having offered to work for free Joe paid me for the day, he was that kind of guy. I continued to assist him as well as others for a number of years while I built up my own client base.
In my 30 years in photography I have never met anyone as passionate about photography as Joe Nettis. He was a marvelous man and I will always remember him. I wish to extend my sincere condolences to his wife Elaine.