LOS ANGELES — Funeral services are pending for local legendary photographer Bill Jones, who died June 25 at the age of 83. Jones had been battling dementia for the past several years.
Jones, a pioneer in Hollywood as a black entertainment photographer, was a friend to many African-American entertainers and the black press as well. He was affiliated with magazines such as Jet, Ebony, and Sister 2 Sister as well as the Los Angeles Wave, the L.A. Watts Times and L.A. Focus newspapers.
Born in Mansfield, Ohio, Jones’ interest in photography began at a young age, when he expressed his desire to work with the black press. Upon graduation from high school, he was accepted to Ohio State University. However, he decided to put his studies on hold and joined the U.S. Air Force.
While in the Air Force as a technical sergeant, Jones began studying photography at the London School of Photography. It is there that he got the opportunity to capture a shot of Muhammad Ali, which marked the beginning of Jones’ journey as an independent photojournalist to the stars.
Following his military service, Jones settled in Los Angeles and attended Cal State Los Angeles where he received a degree in sociology. However, he still held his aspirations of being a photojournalist.
After college, he began doing freelance work. Although older than many of the other photographers, Jones displayed what Aldore Collier, West Coast editor of Ebony and Jet, said was a tenacity that his peers did not have.
“The manners he displayed really appealed to a lot of the Hollywood celebrities and as a result, he was the one they all looked for in the crowd,” Collier.
In a promotional video that photographer and filmmaker Ian Foxx has prepared for a documentary he is working on about his longtime friend and mentor, black entertainers shared their memories and thank-yous for the photographer who has captured through his lens some of the pivotal moments in their careers.
“I always knew I was in good hands,” said actor, director and activist Danny Glover, who remembers the level of comfort that he felt whenever Jones would photograph him. “There’s a way in which we gravitate toward [Bill], all of us who know [his] contribution to Jet magazine, know [his] contribution to getting it right and doing it right.”
He was one of the few African-American photographers on red carpets, however he was the leader amongst all photographers present. Foxx described him as a gentleman.
“Jones was a firm man with strong convictions yet he also had a heart of gold,” Foxx said”
In the 1990s, Jones was seriously injured during a brutal altercation with a neighbor. While washing his car, Jones was beaten with a baseball bat by a neighbor. leaving him in a coma for several weeks.
However, Jones was fighter and he did not let the attack stop him from doing what he loved.
According to many. Jones was not the typical celebrity photographer. His calm and friendly demeanor drew celebrities to him. No red carpet would be complete without Jones’ attendance, said actress Holly Robinson Peete.
In a video put together by Foxx, she said: “[Bill] makes me feel special every time I go to any event. … Thanks for every thing you bring to this Hollywood scene,” she said.
Jones, whose legacy spans over 50 years will be remembered as a giant in the industry and as someone who celebrities like Halle Berry, Denzel Washington, Danny Glover, Judy Pace and many others trusted to capture their Hollywood moments.
Singer Kelly Price shared her sentiments via Instagram over the weekend.
“He by far was my favorite photog ever,” she said. “So kind and always genuinely concerned with allowing the photo to be true to the moment.”
Jones was surrounded by family and friends in his final moments.
The family issued the following statement shortly after his deatj
“Today we lost the legend of photography Bill Jones. He’s been suffering from dementia for the past seven years that stemmed from his brutal attack in 1997. Bill took his last breadth at noon today while holding his granddaughter Latoya Jones’ hand as surrounded by his daughters Michele and Natalie Jones and his longtime photography buddy Malcolm Ali and his great grandson. He would be missed, but his legacy will live forever. Please keep our family in your prayers at this difficult time.”
LaToya Jones told The Wave that she is encouraging everyone to be happy for her grandfather because he is no longer in any pain. She said she will continue to do her best to keep his legacy alive.
A “GoFundMe” account has been created to provide monetary support toward the funeral services and burial of Jones, which could happen as soon as July 14, LaToya Jones said.
Contributions for funeral expenses can be made at https://www.gofundme.com/2bdqnys.