The Historical Society of Hammonton hosted Jack Mazzeo of Mazzeo Studio as part of its Speaker Series Presentation at the Hammonton Canoe Club on November 3. With his family in attendance, Mazzeo discussed a variety of topics, from his family’s arrival in Hammonton from Italy to his family’s photography business. Recounting stories, both joyful and tragic, Mazzeo then presented a slideshow of a wide variety of photos taken throughout the Mazzeo Studio history, which started by his father, John, in 1946.
Mazzeo began the presentation telling the story of his great-grandfather’s arrival in Hammonton at 16 years old, traveling from Sicily to Texas to Boston to Philadelphia to eventually settling in Hammonton, where he would live until he passed away. He then discussed his great-grandfather marrying his wife, Angela, who gave birth to Jack’s grandmother, Jenny Rizzotte. Jenny then married John Mazzeo, who gave birth to Jack’s father, John. After coming back from World War II, John started a studio and married Jack’s mother. But before Jack pursued a career in photography, he worked various jobs while he was in college.
“I worked at Olivo’s Market. I worked at a cookie factory for four hours, then walked out of there, I couldn’t stand it,” Mazzeo said.
After graduating college, he worked in construction for a summer before his father offered him a job. The pay for taking pictures, as he described it, was the same amount of money as he was making working construction.
“It was a lot better taking pictures than it was sweating with a pick axe and a sledgehammer,” Mazzeo said.
Mazzeo then showed a slideshow presentation to those in attendance, which displayed photos taken by the Mazzeo family, both personal and professional. The presentation, which began with Mazzeo’s great-grandfather’s family, alternated between the Mazzeo family photos to photos taken throughout Hammonton’s history.
As Mazzeo clicked through each photo, he told the backstory or meaning behind it, adding an occasional history lesson. Whether it was a high school graduating class or a town hall building, Mazzeo explained the history of each photo while mentioning the current status of where the person or building in the photos are here today.
The presentation then transitioned to photos taken in the past 20 years, showcasing family portraits and headshots. A couple photos in the presentation also featured his family members, whether it was at home or vacation.
“Can you tell I carry a camera everywhere?” Mazzeo joked during the presentation.
A common theme in his photos taken during his personal time is that his wife, Janet, modeled for him. He has been married to Janet for 49 years and frequently complimented her as her photos made appearances during the presentation.
“My wife made a great model, so she was my ‘baby’,” Mazzeo said.
Mazzeo felt it was important to talk about his family’s history because of their history in Hammonton.
“We have our roots here, it’s the best town in New Jersey. Probably in the whole country,” Mazzeo said.
Despite being in so many different places, Hammonton is home because he knows everybody and watched everyone grow up as well as his grandkids and sister being born here.
“I can’t move to Florida; I can’t move to Hawaii or whatever. Hammonton is where I know everybody. That’s why when I came in the room tonight, there were four people that were born in Hammonton and I knew everyone,” Mazzeo said.
As Mazzeo Studio continues being the longest-running studio within the national association, Mazzeo enjoyed success as a photographer. Named Mr. Professional Photographer by New Jersey, he received the National Merit Award by The Professional Photographers of America.
He had his work displayed at Professional Photography Conventions all over the east coast.
He trained his daughter, Deanna, and they have worked together at weddings.
He still loves taking pictures today as he loves taking pictures of people. Mazzeo said he loves the creation behind photography. His advice for photographers starting out is that the first hundred-thousand are the hardest and after that, they better know what they’re doing.
“I always tell people: the better you get, the more you like it or love it,” Mazzeo said.
Mazzeo is still busy today, still involved in many projects. With photos of events he participated in and different people and families, he tries to catch different personalities in his pictures. When describing what’s rewarding about photography for him, he said, “it’s an art.”
“I just do the best I can on time and I love it. I shoot constantly, I’m at the beach, I have a family group on Saturday morning, I have another family group on Sunday morning, and then I have an engagement I have to do Sunday afternoon. Normally, I’d be off but I’m doing it,” Mazzeo said.