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Ole Miss Grad Tim Ivy Captures Life, Death, in His Camera Lens

Tim Ivy’s high school hobby became his window into the world.
“I bought a 35 mm camera when I graduated from high school,” the former New York Times freelance photographer told HottyToddy.com during a recent interview. “I used to browse the J.C. Penny catalog and I was always attracted to electronics — but especially camera equipment. As a little kid I used to crawl along the floor looking through the paper towel spool and pretending like I was shooting.”
High School for Ivy was at Lafayette High in Oxford, where the family moved when Ivy was 12. His father had retired from his factory job in Madison, Ill. For some remarkable images of his father shot by Tim Ivy click here.

Tim Ivy

After graduation, Tim Ivy says he roamed around with little direction, going as far west as California before retuning to East. St. Louis., where his brother lived at the time. Still looking for purpose, Ivy headed back south to Oxford where he hoped to find a decent paying job. He ended up working at Kentucky Fried Chicken.
He attended High School Day at Ole Miss in 1985 because Ivy admits, “I thought it would be a good place to meet girls.” Instead of girls, Ivy’s fancy was caught by “the biggest camera I’d ever seen.” He began asking the owner of the camera questions and that talented photographer turned out to be Robert Jordan, longtime Ole Miss chief photographer.
Jordan sensed Ivy’s passion immediately and promised the young man, “If you go to school at Ole Miss I’ll give you a job in the photography department.”
Ivy took advantage of the chance, entering Ole Miss and taking on a job as a student photographer in the university’s Communication Department. Ed Meek, current HottyToddy.com publisher, was Ivy’s boss.
“I traveled all over the state shooting for AP and the Jackson Clarion-Ledger and it opened up a whole new world,” Ivy recalls. Although he didn’t initially aspire to be a journalist, the talented Ivy quickly became the Daily Mississippian’s top photographer. Photos he took of an airplane crash were picked up by the AP in late 1986 and Ivy’s career took off.
He launched a successful career, simultaneously stringing for the Clarion-Ledger and interning with the Minneapolis Star-Tribune and the Birmingham Post-Herald. His college studies and PR job with Ole Miss had evolved into a full-time professional photographer gig.
At first that work was focused on documentary photography in Mississippi, an approach Ivy calls visual sociology. To pursue this calling, Ivy knew academic credentials might come in handy and he returned to Ole Miss to earn his degree in journalism in 2000, nine years after he had left to become a professional photographer.
Armed only with his degree and his huge talent, Ivy moved to the Northeast, the center of the media universe. He caught on as a freelancer for the Newark Star-Ledger in Newark, N.J. Soon the call came to move up to the biggest of media Big Leagues, The New York Times.
Ivy worked for the Gray Lady for seven years. “I mostly covered the New Jersey beat but I worked my way up to lead metro photographer,” he said. “I had a lot of fun, but one day I was called to a crime scene in Newark. I went to a home and had to photograph a group of kids who had been locked in the basement for months. They had been fed like animals. They looked terrible, all nutritionally deprived and one dead. That moment stuck with me. Things like that started to get to me and and left me thinking about getting back to documentary photography.”
Tim Ivy documented the life and death of his father C.B Ivy.

Another assignment finalized Ivy’s determination to quit the big-city newspaper beat. He was on the scene soon after two trucks collided on the interstate. He noticed a stretcher covered by a blue tarp. When he approached, he witnessed, partially revealed in the bright afternoon sunlight, a black-charred torso burnt beyond recognition. “I shot the picture, but I realized as I framed that image how an entire life can come down to one moment in time.”
Since moving back to Mississippi in 2013, Ivy has been perfecting his craft. He plans eventually to travel up and down the 1-55 corridor between Jackson and Chicago documenting the faces and lives of the American heartland people he knows intimately. “These are my people and I want to capture those fleeting moments that you miss without a still camera,” he explained.
Ivy says he wants to earn his master’s degree in sociology at Ole Miss. He is thinking about ideas for a book of his images, as he stretches professionally into more artistic photographic styles. His simple goal is to document the lives of the people he captures with his camera lens.
Andy Knef is HottyToddy.com editor. Contact him about this story at Andy.Knef@HottyToddy.com

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