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In 1996, my friend, the legendary Hollywood photographer Douglas Kirkland, suggested I try printing my photography on an IRIS printer at Nash Editions (the birthplace of fine art ink jet printing). I was looking for a new, smaller creative journey after years of writing, producing and directing in the film industry. I was also comfortable with the idea of images in the digital realm; over the previous several years the companies I built in the film industry had become prime innovators in 3-D modeling for film. I had spent years looking at my digital work on screens of all kinds, or seeing my photography reproduced in books, magazines, and as traditional prints. But when I started working with R. Mac Holbert at Nash Editions, I became completely enthralled with the artistry of printing an image. I have come to think that it must carry a similar reward to that felt by a gem cutter. If you do it right, if you strive for perfection, what you created will live with honor in families for generations.
Soon after I began working with Nash Editions, they teamed up with Epson in Epson’s effort to build a superior printer to the IRIS 3047 Graphics Printer. The IRIS technology was very old and mechanical by high tech standards, and extremely expensive to buy and maintain. Epson was dedicated to building an affordable printer with stable inks and I was sure that they would be able to do it within a few years. I had intended to move to Taos, New Mexico when I had finished with the film industry, so in 1998 I moved to open a print studio (as soon as Epson built their economical printer).
The challenge for Epson proved somewhat more daunting than we had all first hoped. When they finally did come out with a large format professional printer series using six pigmented inks, it was a tremendous breakthrough, but it also had particular limitations that were unacceptable. I was not going to offer the amazing artists of the Taos area anything less than the finest prints that could be printed. I spent the waiting years fruitfully by working with artists and photographers, immersing myself in color correction, and working out a business plan as I patiently kept tabs on Epson’s progress.
With the release of the Epson Stylus Pro 9600 in 2002, Jack Leustig Imaging opened its doors in the beautiful mountain village of Arroyo Seco, NM. In 2016 we rebranded the company that had outgrown my name to Fine Art New Mexico, LLC.
Born and raised in farm-country east of Cleveland, Ohio, Jack Leustig began his professional career as a photographer in the early 1970s in New York City working for United Press International. In the mid-seventies he studied acting and directing for three years with Lee Strasberg and acted in several New York productions including a starring role at the Actors Studio.
In the late 1970s, Jack moved to Los Angeles where he managed the Aquarius Theater, a 1,200-seat, legitimate theatre in Hollywood that presented major Broadway musicals with their original casts. In 1981, after working on his first film, Zoot Suit, shot at the Aquarius with director Louis Valdez, Jack took a position at Francis Ford Coppola’s Zoetrope Studios.
Throughout the 1980s he worked on many films in various capacities including writing, casting, and acting (acting opposite Jessica Lange, Richard Gere, Sam Shepard, Michael Keaton and others). In 1989, Jack directed his first film, the acclaimed psychological short Triplicity, which he also wrote and produced. Immediately after that he directed The Making of Dances With Wolves before beginning his most ambitious and important project, 500 Nations, in 1990.
After four years in the making, 500 Nations, the eight-hour, prime-time documentary on the history of the indigenous nations of North America, aired on CBS in the spring of 1995. Created, written, produced and directed by Jack, the prime-time network mini-series was among the largest and most honored documentaries in network history. Howard Rosenberg in the L.A. Times wrote, “…stunning storytelling. Magnificently directed by Jack Leustig,” and Daily Variety echoed his sentiments by calling Jack’s direction “superb.” In 1996 in Washington, D.C., Jack was honored with the NEA Award for the Advancement of Learning Through Broadcasting.
During the same period of the early 90s, Jack’s photography and digital imaging had a resurgence with many of his images being published in books, CD covers, and magazines (including two national covers). In December of 1995 Jack’s life took a tragic turn when his wife of twenty-five years, the esteemed casting director Elisabeth Leustig, was killed in Moscow, Russia while working on The Saint for Paramount Pictures. He left the film industry and turned to the more private world of print making.
Over the next two years Jack worked with and learned ink jet printing from R. Mac Holbert at Nash Editions in Manhattan Beach, California (Holbert and his partner, Graham Nash, starting the fine art ink jet printing industry in 1990).
In March 1998, Jack and his second wife, Brenda, and their new child moved to Taos, New Mexico with the intention of opening a print studio. His move was inspired by Epson’s promise to soon release the finest printer in the world with archival inks at an affordable price. It took a few years longer than Epson had hoped but Jack used the time to refine his digital and printing skills working with Taos artists. In 2002, with the introduction of the Epson Stylus PRO 9600, Jack Leustig Imaging opened in Arroyo Seco, New Mexico and has since emerged as the regional leader in the highest quality fine art printing.
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