Not Just Pretty Pictures

Jack Woody

YOU CAN IMMEDIATELY TELL a Twin Palms book. Provocative images, covers with no type, spare, brilliant design. For 40 years, Jack Woody has published only what he’s interested in, not what “sells.” His limited editions include Diane Keaton, Allen Ginsberg, Bruce Weber, Dennis Hopper, Lincoln Kirstein, Gus Van Sant, and William Eggleston. What he’s not interested in are landscapes: I can’t stand Ansel Adams or Eliot Porter. I’m really interested in people. Portraits are my favorite form of photography. Jack is a one-man show, doing the majority of the design, editing, and production out of his studio in the shadow of Atalaya.

How did you get started?

After high school, I hitchhiked to LA and got a job at Hollywood Book City.Orson Welles and Peter Finch would come in; it felt like home to me. One night, David Hockney came in and invited me to a party. I met Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy. Oh, and Rita Hayworth. I don’t know how I came up with the idea to make a book, but I talked to Chris and Don, and we did it!

About the same time, I stumbled over some George Platt Lynes photos and wanted to do a book of his work. I didn’t know about printing and wanted an oversize book, so I found a yearbook printer in Pomona. Then I took it to my favorite bookstore, Rizzoli in New York, and they bought five copies. I don’t think they ever paid me. But a New York Times writer saw it and picked it as a book of the year. Then all hell broke loose. Everybody wanted to work with us. But I’ve always mostly been interested in things other people might find offensive. I think maybe they should reconsider, look at things from another perspective.

Your books are known for their design.

The Platt Lynes was the prototype for the look: just a beautiful picture and no type. I have no design background, but I love books. When I was a kid, I had a whole library of old books, and I just made my books look like those.

Why did Twin Palms move from LA to Santa Fe?

I went to high school in Albuquerque and always loved Santa Fe. We’d drive here and get drunk and then try to get all the way back home before dawn. It’s special here. I never feel isolated, I feel at home.



Photo Andy Johnson