Renowned UI photographer dies


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The artistic passion of one man and his father captured decades of University of Iowa history in photographs. Today, they fill archives and line walls of the university, keeping its story alive.

The man behind the lens, Iowa City native and UI photographer James Kent died March 4 after a brief fight with pneumonia in Bountiful, Utah. He was 91.

Kent spent 40 years working at the UI continuing the vision of his father, Frederick Wallace Kent, who founded the UI photo service and served as its manager from 1947 to 1963.

Together, James Kent and his father documented thousands of moments of history on campus.

There are approximately 50,000 prints and negatives in his father’s collection of photographs, according to the University Libraries.

“As far as documenting history goes, the family name is inseparable from the university’s history,” said Greg Prickman, assistant head at the Main Library’s Special Collections.

James Kent also furthered the photographic history of the university and deeply affected those he worked with.

“Of all the people I’ve met in my life, no person has played a more important role in my life than Jim Kent,” said Richard Boulware, a longtime friend who worked alongside him.

Boulware said James Kent was a handsome man with a humble personality and an “incredibly dry sense of humor.”

As early as his high-school days, James Kent would tag along with his father to football games.

“[His father] would give him a sideline pass and a camera and said, ‘Help me,’ ” said daughter Patricia Marsh. “His father gave him every opportunity to work side-by-side with him.”

Boulware spent five years working under the direction of Kent, one of the happiest five years of his life, he said.

After Boulware left the university, he and Kent remained friends throughout the remainder of his life.

“I’ve been walking around with a huge hole in my soul,” Boulware said on hearing of the death of his friend.

Kent was also active in the University Photographers Association of America, winning a national award in 1969 and serving as the association’s president in 1970.

He met his wife, Cloy, a painter, when they worked at an Eastman Kodak Company store in Salt Lake City. The two married in 1942 and raised six children.

After his retirement, in 1984, he moved to Utah and remained active, taking photos throughout the later years of his life, Marsh said. James’ brother, Chuck Kent, who resides in Iowa City, described his relationship with his older brother as “good friends”.

Now, Marsh said, she has begun to fully realize the effect her father had professionally and in the lives of others.

Both his devoted care and artistic approach to life stayed with Marsh.

“I have a deep appreciation for the world of art and photography and my parents changed my view of the world,” she said.

And there are still moments that remind her of her father.

“When I look at people and try to find the best about them, it reminds me of my parents,” she said.

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