Deputy picture editor Phil Jache is a kayaking enthusiast who knows how to keep his head above water. In the office Jache can occasionally be found daydreaming of being in a kayak and slicing through the bucking torrents of some raging river. That is, of course, when he's not editing film, coordinating the assignments of our far-flung photography staff, straightening out photo department finances or doing something or other to help our photographers slash through red tape. "My life isn't very interesting," says Jache. "I do the office thing, and I paddle. Of course, sometimes I feel like I'm paddling when I'm doing the office thing."
What the 37-year-old Jache modestly calls "the office thing" entails keeping SI's 20-plus photographers, seven photo editors and five lighting technicians working together fluidly to produce the pictures for each week's issue. "Phil makes this place run," says director of photography Heinz Kluetmeier. "In addition to knowing everything that's going on in the office, he has a great understanding of the difficulties photographers have on the road. He knows the technical stuff as well as most of the photographers and probably better than many of them."
Jache got his start in photography when he was 14 years old and his neighbor in Wauwatosa, Wis., was a photographer for SI named... Heinz Kluetmeier. "I was mowing his lawn one day, and Heinz asked me if I wanted to assist him on an assignment," says Jache. "It was just carrying lenses and changing film, but I was hooked for life."
Jache continued working as Kluetmeier's assistant, as well as free-lancing for other photographers, for the next 19 years. "It's pretty exciting when you're a teenager," says Jache, "and you're going to all these sporting events, and you're flying all over the country in these small jets. It was pretty cool stuff." Along the way, Jache became one of the best lighting technicians in the business. In 1972 he and Kluetmeier perfected a system for lighting indoor arenas using Speedotron strobes that is standard practice for photographers today. "It was all new back then," says Jache. "We sort of made things up as we went along."
In 1983 Jache joined the SI staff as a lighting technician and five years later became our deputy picture editor. And although he has been keeping us out of hot water ever since, Jache spends much of his free time keeping himself in water. About two years ago he was introduced to kayaking while on vacation in North Carolina, and, as with photography, he was hooked immediately. This September, Jache and his wife, Karen, also an avid kayaker, plan on traveling to the Grand Canyon to tackle the Colorado River, and they have already mapped out next winter's project: a voyage down the Bio Bio in Chile, one of the roughest rivers in the world.
"There's something very soothing about kayaking," says Jache. "Maybe it's because you have to focus or you'll get crushed. Everything else sort of fades away. You really have to focus." And keep your head above water.