Jon Rieger Tribute

As most members of our global scholarly community already know, we recently lost a cherished colleague: Jon Rieger.

According to the obituary published in the Louisville Courier-Journal, Jon died of natural causes at home on July 16th.

Since Jon’s passing, many thousands of us have been mourning his loss individually and collectively. We have spoken and written to each other about Jon’s unique way of seeing the world, his sterling character, his rigorous and inventive scholarship, and of course, his seemingly boundless generosity.

If you were fortunate enough to know Jon personally, you undoubtedly benefited from his intellect, sense of humor, and compassion. Jon was the sort of person who, if you knew him at all, your life was made better for the knowing. It’s just that simple.

In the days following his death, the IVSA and the editorial team of our journal, Visual Studies, began making preparations for publishing tribute and memorial materials on our website and in the journal. We want to take a moment now to let you know about our plans for paying tribute to Jon’s long and richly storied life.

Jon Rieger. Photo credit: Ricabeth SteigerFirst, the next issue of Visual Studies will include a reflection on Jon’s life and work, written by Jon Wagner and Doug Harper. This tribute will be open-access and therefore available freely to all who would like to read it. Please be on watch for it. Of course, we will be circulating the link to it here, on Facebook, and on Twitter.

Second, our colleagues at Taylor & Francis, the publisher of Visual Studies, are creating a separate tribute page on their website. That page will include some background information, a photograph of Jon, and a brief excerpt from Wagner and Harper’s memorial article. The IVSA website will provide a link to the T&F memorial site.

Third, Taylor & Francis have happily agreed with our suggestion to make a collection of Rieger’s articles previously published in Visual Studies. These influential articles will be available free of charge, as a testament to Jon’s unceasing generosity and as a reminder of his inspirational scholarship. Once these articles are available, we will post the announcement widely. Please stay tuned.

Fourth, we are in the process of compiling and publishing materials from the work created by all past winners of the Jon Rieger Award, an IVSA awards program endowed by Jon since 2012 to recognize, in perpetuity, outstanding and innovative graduate student work in visual sociology.

Jon was one of the folks who warmly welcomed so many of us into IVSA. He always showed exceptional interest in the work of his peers, and especially the work of junior colleagues. Jon was the paradigmatic “lifelong learner.” Through the years he always celebrated the work we did and challenged us to do better work, just as he challenged himself. Jon Rieger was the real deal and such a very good egg.

On behalf of the Board of Directors of the IVSA, I can say that we will miss Jon dearly and vow to keep his legacy alive in every way we know how.

Greg Scott, President
International Visual Sociology Association

Jon Rieger photo credit: Ricabeth Steiger


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Your own tributes to Jon Rieger

If you knew and/or were influenced by Jon and his work, please use this form to submit a written tribute, reflection, or anecdote. You may also submit images of Jon. The IVSA team will copyedit all submissions and publish them on this page, where they will be preserved as a compendium for years to come. Please note that your submission will bear your name. Also, if you submit an image, be sure to let us know to whom the photo credit should go.

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    Jim Sadlo

    I was a student of Dr. Rieger’s at University Of Louisville in the late 1980s for his Rural Sociology course. To this day, I remember his engaging classes with thoughtful and instructive discourse.

    One picture he showed was of late 19th century farmers showing off their abundant grain harvest. He asked the class if anything stood out in the picture…no one got it until he finally pointed out the stalks of wheat were SIX FEET TALL! We all had an AH-HAH! moment as he went on to ask us, “…how many six-feet tall wheat crops do you see TODAY?” as he spoke of the many changes to the Agricultural Industry through the years and its effect on rural communities.

    He shared his studies of Ontonagan County freely and I recall with great fondness his recollections of giving his first dissertation and his mentor saying to him afterwards, “…real nice Johh, but have you ever been there in the Winter?”

    Always entertaining, I have my own copy of Wisconsin Death Trip, one of the many examples of how he found ways to keep Sociology interesting as he knew some folks were only in the class for the credit hours.

    As a large part of our grade, he assigned us to do a family history/genealogy while pondering the question, “How many of us are far away from a rural background?”…and while I personally couldn’t find any recent ‘farmers’ in my lineage, it forced me to engage my now-deceased parents and grandparents with questions whose answers would have been lost had I not asked them back in the 80s. This was a gift I could not have foreseen at the time but am very grateful to Dr. Rieger to this day.


    Giuseppe Losacco

    I could say that his reflections on rephotography were very important for visual sociology. I could say that he was present at every IVSA conference, each time providing his important contribution to visual sociology. I could say that he made me come to Louisville (I never thought of going there … Louisville, Kentucky, was not one of my dream destinations) for the magnificent conference he organized, (of which I will always remember a wonderful welcome drink, with Kentucky Fried Chicken and beer … followed by a cigar at the poolside with Charles Suchar … if I remember correctly … so many years have passed ..). I could talk about his belt buckle which was truly cowboy. I could say so many other things about Jon … but the thing I really want to talk about is about the sense of peace that Jon was able to convey when he talked to you. It was nice to meet Jon at the IVSA Annual Meeting, for so many years, and even though I haven’t attended this important convention for a long time, knowing that Jon will no longer be there to welcome me with his smile makes me very sad …

    Goodbye Jon, it was an honor to meet you and consider you not only a teacher but also a friend.

    Pino, from Bologna, Italy

    Stephen Gold

    John was a great visual sociologist, mentor, teacher, photographer and visionary. He contributed so much to the IVSA and was a great friend and colleague.

    John Rieger IVSA 1988 Rochester 2
    Ivsa 1988 Visual Studies Workshop

    Patrick Kelly

    Jon was my instructor in graduate school at the University of Louisville. Along with his rugged personality was an incredibly creative mind and warm heart. He was quite a trail blazer. The fact that I found this so many years later speaks to his impact on peoples lives and the field of sociology.


    Katy Wareham Morris

    RT @sociologyworc: ‘Parts of town are just destroyed’: the ghost shops of Kent in pictures #VisualSociology…

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