Designer Checkout: Jimmy Hayes

Designer Checkout: Jimmy Hayes - Autotype

Jimmy Hayes is a photographer in California’s Napa Valley. His current status as the wine industry's pre-eminent visual storyteller follows an incredible career arc that includes leadership roles at three-star Michelin restaurants and some of the most iconic wineries in America.


Behind the camera, Jimmy uses his extensive, first-hand experience in and around wine to capture immersive images that showcase a true insider’s perspective. Jimmy has photographed a host of California’s iconic wine estates – Kistler, Dalla Valle, Schrader, Favia and many others. As an artist, Jimmy strives to take moody, minimal, structural, pictures showcasing forms and negative space as strong, non-traditional subjects; he actively avoids traditional themes and compositions. Whether shooting for a client, or making photographs for himself, Jimmy holds himself to a core philosophy – every finished image must stand alone as an individual, complete piece of art.

Jimmy’s work has appeared in numerous national and international publications. His first book – Veritas – is a monograph culled from 6 years documenting the California wine industry, Veritas is a collection of images curated to present the soulful and at times unromantic reality of the industry as it exists everyday, not only on its best days.

What is your 'why'?

I believe in the power of experiencing emotion. Great pictures make us feel so deeply about the world around us, about ourselves, and about our society. If we allow ourselves to be open to the kind of emotional expansion available through pictures, I believe it can lead to much positive change – more empathy, more understanding, more closeness.

Why a career in art/design?

Well, I officially came to it later in my career after working in other capacities for lots of amazing people. I realized that I’m at my best working for myself.  Speaking candidly, I’m not a terribly flexible person, especially when it comes to aesthetics. As an artist I’m allowed to be completely true to myself…to satisfy my own standards. Knowing that, at the end of the day, I’m the only one I have to please means that I can really follow my instincts; selfishly, it’s a nice place to be.

What makes good design?

Such a great question. For me it’s harmony. When it’s right, you just know it. My 11 year-old son is a pretty awesome pianist, and this past year we bought an acoustic piano for the house. New pianos have a 'settling period' and they need to be tuned regularly for the first year or so before they hold their pitch. Whenever it falls slightly out of tune, the notes resonate with this really uncomfortable vibration – like unwelcome guests taking up space in the room. Even if you know nothing about music, you can just tell it feels all wrong. But once the piano gets tuned and the pitch is perfect again, the sound fills the space differently – there’s an effortlessness to the music and the energy it creates, a profound invisibility...  perfect harmony.

A piece of great design to me is just like a note on the piano that’s perfectly pitched - its energy, vibration, and effect on its surroundings are all harmonious.  Doesn’t matter what it is - a car, a lamp, a shoe...when it's designed well you instinctively feel it.

Who (or what) influences you?

I’m influenced - maybe 'inspired by' is better - people who create beautiful, powerful images about the human experience - Mary Ellen Mark, Gordon Parks, Robert Frank to name a few.

To me, the most talented photographers are the ones who show the determination, resilience, and grit of people dealing with even the most challenging situations. They deftly coax out the hope and possibility instead of the despair, often through the smallest details of an expression, or a posture. Always remembering that these little things can have the biggest impact on a picture is something I try to take from them.

What impact do you want to make on the world of design?

Easy – I’d like to donate more of my artistic energy and output in support of certain socially and culturally-minded businesses and communities, while also inspiring professionals in other industries to do the same.  

I’m in the process of launching a project called Oneamonth – it’s my stab at creating a culture of habitual, regular, professional service donation. I’ll be looking for small businesses or community organizations where my photography might help amplify their message, visibility, or overall profile and offer a day’s work to them at no cost. Hopefully, I’ll convince lots of other people to do the same – ultimately the goal would be to establish a broad network of great professionals across all kinds of complimentary industries, all ready and willing to help in their respective, specialized fields.

What advice do you have for future creatives?

Take chances and push yourself.  If you follow your instincts the results are, by definition, unique and totally personal. Nothing is more satisfying than knowing you are doing something that nobody else does.  And never be afraid to call your work what is it – art.



What are your 2 favorite pieces in the Autotype Marketplace?

As a vintage truck owner myself, I obviously drool over anything that ICON does.  Early Broncos and FJs are such stunning examples of design and function existing in harmony. Just perfect vehicles. And, so I can avoid having to choose 1 favorite from all of Dewey Nicks’ amazing prints, I’ll give a shout out to that beautiful little bronze crock by Nancy Pearce. Super energetic little piece!

What are some of your favorite, well-designed items we don't offer, but should?

In general - stuff for the hi-fi setup! I can’t stop collecting records. Would love some beautifully designed things to make the turntable area better! Record holders, slip pad, a set of beautiful passive speakers, maybe a great sideboard.

Pay it forward...recommend another artist / designer / craftsperson we should profile on Autotype.

Ryan Bailey! He’s a great friend and super talented sommelier that started a wine-focused tableware company called Portae. Their first piece is a beautiful modern wine cradle that is handmade in Los Angeles.


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