Photographer Jay Maisel’s book Light, Gesture & Color is full of pithy wisdom about the art of seeing.
Here’s a selection of highlights.
“If you’re not your own severest critic, you are your own worst enemy.” – Jay Maisel
“The whole world is there for you. Gifts will happen, but only if you are patient with life itself, the shooting process, and your own limitations.” – Jay Maisel
“There is no bad light. There is spectacular light and difficult light. It’s up to you to use the light you have.” – Jay Maisel
“The drama of light exists not only in what is in the light, but also in what is left dark. If the light is everywhere, the drama is gone.” – Jay Maisel
“Gesture will survive whatever kind of light you have. Gesture can triumph over anything because of its narrative content.” – Jay Maisel
“We have always wanted to find the ‘it-ness’ of anything we shoot. We want to get as deep into the subject as we can.” – Jay Maisel
“You will, in time, see and show others not just the superficial, but the details, the meanings, and the implications of all that you look at …” – Jay Maisel
“One color alone means nothing. I acts as in a vacuum, with no other colors to relate to. It is only when colors relate to other colors that the fun begins.” – Jay Maisel
“Color is seductive. It changes as it interacts with other colors, it changes because of the light falling upon it, and it changes as it becomes larger in size.” – Jay Maisel
“You cannot accurately remember color …” – Jay Maisel
“’Color’ is quite different from ‘colors.’ In an image with many colors, we find that all the colors compete with each other rather than interacting with each other. The results” colors.” – Jay Maisel
“There really isn’t anything that you could call ‘bad’ color. It all has to do with the amount of color you use and in what context it appears.” – Jay Maisel
“Some have said that if you take a great picture in color and take away the color, you’ll have a great black-and-white picture. But if you’re shooting something about color and you take away the color, you’ll have nothing.” – Jay Maisel
“What you’re shooting at doesn’t matter, the real question is: ‘Does it give you joy?’” – Jay Maisel
“Always shoot it now. It won’t be the same when you go back.” – Jay Maisel
“You must not think of yourself as looking at the stage from the audience. You must think of it as theatre in the round and look at it from all sides.” – Jay Maisel
“We don’t experience light, color, and gesture in a vacuum. We experience it in contexts.” – Jay Maisel
“If you don’t have a camera, the best thing you can do is describe how great it looked.” – Jay Maisel
“It’s a lot easier to take pictures if you always have the camera with you.” – Jay Maisel
“There is no one solution to all problems. It’s the problem itself that can lead to the solution.” – Jay Maisel
“It’s not just when you shoot, or what you shot, or where you shoot, it’s the combination of the three.” – Jay Maisel
“The more light you have in an image, the less drama you get. The details start taking over; the mystery is all gone.” – Jay Maisel
“I love when pictures ask questions or make others ask questions.” – Jay Maisel
“The pictures are everywhere. If you’re open, they will find you.” – Jay Maisel
“Sometimes without shooting a picture germinates in your head. Other times, you keep taking pictures of the same thing and watch the images mature and grow.” – Jay Maisel
“As you see something that yo want to shot and it’s bearing down on you, it’s important to start framing long before the subject gets close to you. The light will reveal itself possibly long before you want to take the image, but you have to wait until the picture comes to you, and if you’ve been anticipating carefully when the subject will be in position, the background will have been figured out in advance.” – Jay Maisel
“Since the background is as important as the subject, you mustn’t let it default by chance. You must control not only vertical and horizontal, you must be aware of the depth of field (or lack of it) that you want in the background.” – Jay Maisel
“Remember that most people (those who are not photographers) don’t even see the things that you missed. Many don’t even look. Ergo, you are way ahead of the game.” – Jay Maisel
“Gesture is not always action.” – Jay Maisel
“It’s my obligation to take out all the ‘wrong’ pictures.” – Jay Maisel
“You have to pick the right tool for the point you’re trying to make and there is no one solution.” – Jay Maisel
“The problem suggests the solution.” – Jay Maisel
“Sometimes as you work, you find that you are learning things about your own perceptions and motivations that are way below you consciousness. If you get lucky, you recognize what you are doing, but all too often we don’t find the connection between our work and our own motivations.” – Jay Maisel
“The awareness of the quality of space in out photos is akin to our awareness of the very air in our photos, the atmosphere that pervades every square inch of our image and yet is often invisible to the photographer.” – Jay Maisel
“When we are given gifts, we must be quick and able to accept them.” – Jay Maisel
“I try not to tell students where to shoot, when to shoot, or what to shoot. I feel finding the picture is the most important part of being a photographer. The actual shooting is of lesser importance.” – Jay Maisel
“You need minimum color for maximum effect.” – Jay Maisel
“Always wait for the trigger. The trigger is the final part of the puzzle, the reason you want to shoot.” – Jay Maisel
“Color really doesn’t have interaction if it’s full of colors. It’s the interaction or relationship among or between colors that makes a color image. This usually happens with a few colors, not a glut of them.” – Jay Maisel
“Forget what it was. Look at what it is.” – Jay Maisel
“You have to learn not only from your failures. You must also learn from your successes.” – Jay Maisel
“You have to let the past successes go, or you’ll never be able to see anew.” – Jay Maisel
“Don’t overthink things in front of you. I fit moves you, shoot it. If it’s fun, shoot it. If you’ve never seen it before, shoot it.” – Jay Maisel
“Had I not been told to look, I would have quite, ignorant of what was really there, because I had ‘made plans’ and was wearing visual and emotional blinders that limited my perceptions and my vision.” – Jay Maisel
“All these factors are only valuable if you’re curious. But in any case, the more knowledge you have, the more things are open and available to you.” – Jay Maisel
“You sort of have to be always aware, even when you’re not thinking of shooting. That’s when the best stuff happens.” – Jay Maisel
“When you shoot, that is opportunity number one to make a statement. When you edit, you have opportunity number two to make your statement. It could be an affirmation of your first choice or could go off in another direction.” – Jay Maisel
“Keep your mind open. You may very well learn something new about yourself and your pictures.” – Jay Maisel
“You must be open to what otherwise may seem to be a detriment to your ‘plans’.” – Jay Maisel
“You always end up with too many pictures to edit and too few that you feel ‘got it’.” – Jay Maisel
“It’s important to realize that the images are everywhere, not just where you want or expect them to be.” – Jay Maisel
“You can’t just turn on when something happens, you have to be turned on all the time. Then things happen.” – Jay Maisel
“Money and fame that photography can bring you are wonderful, but nothing can compare to the joy of seeing something new.” – Jay Maisel
Of course, all of these insights are made even better when paired with his images.
Find the book Light, Gesture & Color here.
Find out more about Jay Maisel here.
Read 20 Questions With Jay Maisel here.
Read more quotes by Jay Maisel here.
Browse my Essential Collection of Photographer’s Quotes here.
You might be tempted to think less of this book because it’s not hard cover, because the reproduction is fine but not stellar, because of the typography is extraordinarily average, or because despite that fact that the title is the stock phrase Jay that is most known for and the selection of images is not definitive. But you’d be missing the point. Light Gesture & Color is one of Jay Maisel’s best books.
Light Gesture & Color is like having an intimate conversation with a master photographer about his enduring passion. Short and sweet. Direct. Pithy. That’s how Jay Maisel serves up a lifetime of hard-earned wisdom. Most of the pages with text have half a dozen lines. One has two – and it’s enough. Better still, each page builds on the other.
You could read this book in a single sitting. I did. I recommend the experience. But I also recommend you read it again – and again. Mark the pages you want to return to for in a few simple lines there are life lessons to be found and refound. It is not that you have to think long and hard to figure out what he’s saying; Jay’s already done that work for you. It is that you’ll need more time to truly internalize what he has found and shared, until it is deeply felt; he did. Do this and you will be a better photographer. You’ll learn to see more. What could be more important?
Find Light Gesture & Color here.
Find out more about Jay Maisel here.
Read 20 Questions with Jay Maisel here.
Read a collection of quotes by Jay Maisel here.
Read Jay’s favorite quotes here.
Here’s an example of Jay at his best.
“Oregon has a remarkable relationship with photography: it is a history filled with documenting the grandeur of the west, staging some of the earliest exhibitions in the country of photographs as works of art, and pushing the boundaries of what a photograph can be.”
Browse The Essential List Of Photography Documentaries here.
You’ll find all kinds of sound advice that will help you chart your own course in Corwin Hiebert’s (Craft&Vision) indispensable The Business Action Planner Toolkit. What is it?
“The Business Action Planner Toolkit is a self-paced resource that you can use to bring structure and focus to your business building efforts. In comparison to a traditional business plan, a business action plan is very different:
- The business elements are organized more organically based on our experience helping creative freelancers identify, address, and solve their management and marketing problems. The Business Action Planner Toolkit is a non-prescriptive resource designed to decrease the chance of inertia and increase your entrepreneurial momentum.
- The end result is not intended to be some elaborate document that you print and then shove in a drawer never to see the light of day. Rather, it’s designed to be a perpetual work in progress; it’s for your business-building pleasure and it’s a digital workspace—thanks to the wonders of Evernote®.
This is for you, something to have at the ready to help you achieve your dreams. It’s a toolkit for creating a manageable and serviceable structure for your hopes and dreams. This wasn’t always a self-help toolkit. In past years it was an expensive consulting package, but now it’s accessible to everyone.”
Find out more here.
The iPhone 6 is a significant upgrade for smartphone photographers.
Bottom line …
Auto-focus is faster.
Noise is improved.
Dynamic range is better.
Low light performance is dramatically better.
Slow-mo video is new.
New image stabilization is available for Plus models only.
DXO rated the iPhone 6 the best smartphone camera they’ve ever tested.
Read the details here.
The illustration on Forbes of the same image on all iPhone models is revealing – as are their 3 reviews.
“Years ago I stumbled on what felt like a secret door into creativity in photography. The secret is that photographers don’t need to hope that creativity will turn up. It’s there in us. Creativity is not something we do, it’s something we are…all the time.” says Kernan.
“Sean Kernan has spent more than 30 years investigating ways that photographers find and use creativity. And all that insight now fills a workshop-in-a-book, Looking into the Light: Creativity and Photography, now available as an iBook.
Kernan’s book offers ways to get to that creativity for photographers at every level, bright beginner to jaded professional. It looks past cameras and technique to focus on our awareness. “We work on our awareness of all the things that happen before the click, which I’m convinced is where the wonder of our best seeing comes from.”
The book gives a series of concrete assignments that stimulate the visual imagination and change our pictures. The sign that they’re working is when we get a hit of the excitement we felt the first time we took a photograph that was way beyond anything we thought we could do.
The exercises are gathered from many areas—music, theater, writing—and they all involve simple things we already know how to do. We can use them to make better photos, or just to see more deeply into what is around us. The goal is to make pictures that talk to the world, not just to other photographers. As Jay Maisel put it, “You want to take more interesting pictures? Be a more interesting person!”
Looking into the Light illustrates the exercises with work from a distinguished group that includes John Paul Caponigro, Greg Heisler, Cig Harvey, Jay Gould, Dennis Darling, Adam Arkin, poet Gregory Orr, Ed Young, Paul Cezanne, Edgar Degas, Sol LeWitt, William Kentridge, and Sir Joshua Reynolds. There’s an iconoclastic essay on portraits by Duane Michals and links to interviews with Duane and Robert Frank.
To support reader’s efforts, the author has created a companion website at www.lookingintothelight.com, where readers can find further articles, watch instructive videos, and upload and share their own work on the assignments.”
Read 20 Questions with Sean Kernan here.
Here’s a collection of my favorite quotes by photographer Bernice Abbott.
“Imagine a world without photography, one could only imagine.” – Berenice Abbott
“Photography helps people to see.” – Berenice Abbott
“What the human eye observes causally and incuriously, the eye of the camera notes with relentless fidelity.” – Berenice Abbott
“Some people are still unaware that reality contains unparalleled beauties. The fantastic and unexpected, the ever-changing and renewing is nowhere so exemplified as in real life itself.” – Berenice Abbott
“The challenge for me has first been to see things as they are, whether a portrait, a city street, or a bouncing ball. In a word, I have tried to be objective. What I mean by objectivity is not the objectivity of a machine, but of a sensible human being with the mystery of personal selection at the heart of it. The second challenge has been to impose order onto the things seen and to supply the visual context and the intellectual framework – that to me is the art of photography.” – Berenice Abbott
“…people say they need to express their emotions I’m sick of that. Photography doesn`t teach you to express your emotions it teachs you to see.” – Berenice Abbott
“They should just go out and photograph and stop talking about it. That’s the only way they are going to find themselves. They can’t do it in their heads – they have to go out and do it in the camera and get it on film.” – Berenice Abbott
“Let us first say what photography is not. A photograph is not a painting, a poem, a symphony, a dance. It is not just a pretty picture, not an exercise in contortionist techniques and sheer print quality. It is or should be a significant document, a penetrating statement, which can be described in a very simple term – selectivity. To define selection, one may say that it should be focussed on the kind of subject matter which hits you hard with its impact and excites your imagination to the extent that you are forced to take it. Pictures are wasted unless the motive power which impelled you to action is strong and stirring.” – Berenice Abbott
“Just living in a place is not enough. You can live in a community and not understand it. Just looking at it wont do. I almost believe we don’t see anything until we understand it. Look into the history of the area – why it started, how it developed. The more research you can do the place, the more you may realize that you don’t know it as well as you thought you did. Let the subject speak for itself. Be true to the subject. Pretty pictures are only an escape from the subject. Don’t photograph a good-looking branch just because it looks nice; the branch should mean something about the community. Photography is statement; it has to tell us things about a place.” – Berenice Abbott
“Actually, documentary pictures include every subject in the world – good, bad, indifferent. I have yet to see a fine photograph which is not a good document.” – Berenice Abbott
“If a medium is representational by nature of the realistic image formed by a lens, I see no reason why we should stand on our heads to distort that function. On the contrary, we should take hold of that very quality, make use of it, and explore it to the fullest.” – Berenice Abbott
“I didn’t decide to be a photographer; I just happened to fall into it.” – Berenice Abbott
“I took to photography like a duck to water. I never wanted to do anything else. Excitement about the subject is the voltage which pushes me over the mountain of drudgery necessary to produce the final photograph.” – Berenice Abbott
“Photography was the medium preeminently qualified to unite art with science. Photography was born in the years which ushered in the scientific age, an offspring of both science and art.” – Berenice Abbott
“You scientists are the worst photographers in the world and you need the best photographers in the world and I’m the one to do it.” – Berenice Abbott
“I wanted to combine science and photography in a sensible, unemotional way. Some people’s ideas of scientific photography is just arty design, something pretty. That was not the idea. The idea was to interpret science sensibly, with good proportion, good balance and good lighting, so we could understand it.” – Berenice Abbott
“I agree that all good photographs are documents, but I also know that all documents are certainly not good photographs. Furthermore, a good photographer does not merely document, he probes the subject, he “uncovers” it…” – Berenice Abbott
“A photograph is or should be significant document, a penetrating statement, which can be described in a very simple term – selectivity. To define selection, one may say that it should be focused on the kind of subject matter which hits you hard with its impact and excites your imagination to the extent that you are forced to take it. Pictures are wasted unless the motive power which impelled you to action is strong and stirring. The motives or points of view are bound to differ with each photographer, and herein lies the important difference which separates one approach from another. Selection of proper picture content comes from a fine union of trained eye and imaginative mind.” – Berenice Abbott
“…the art is in selecting what is worthwhile to take the trouble about…” – Berenice Abbott
“To chart a course, one must have a direction. In reality, the eye is no better than the philosophy behind it. The photographer creates, evolves a better, more selective, more acute eye by looking ever more sharply at what is going on in the world. Like every other means of expression, photography, if it is to be utterly honest and direct, should be related to the life of the times–the pulse of today. The photograph may be presented as finely and artistically as you will, but to merit serious consideration, must be directly connected with the world we live in.” – Berenice Abbott
“Abstraction in photography is ridiculous, and is only an imitation of painting. We stopped imitating painters a hundred years ago, so to imitate them in this day and age is laughable.” – Berenice Abbott
“Photography can never grow up if it imitates some other medium. It has to walk alone; it has to be itself.” – Berenice Abbott
“There are many teachers who could ruin you. Before you know it you could be a pale copy of this teacher or that teacher. You have to evolve on your own.” – Berenice Abbott
“The camera is no more an instrument of preservation, the image is.” – Berenice Abbott
“I haven’t seen too many images that have impressed me!” – Berenice Abbott
“Self-conscious artiness is fatal, but it certainly would not hurt to study composition in general. Having a basic understanding of composition would help construct a better organized image.” – Berenice Abbott
“The photograph may be presented as finely and artistically as you will; but to merit serious consideration, must be directly connected with the world we live in.” – Berenice Abbott
“I believe there is no more creative medium than photography to recreate the living world of our time…Photography gladly accepts the challenge because it is at home in its element: namely, realism—real life—the now.” – Berenice Abbott
“Like every other means of expression, photography, if it is to be utterly honest and direct, should be related to the life of the times – the pulse of today….The photograph…to merit serious consideration, must be directly connected with the world we live in.” – Berenice Abbott
“The photographer is the contemporary being par excellence; through his eyes the now becomes the past.” – Berenice Abbott
“Photography can only represent the present. Once photographed, the subject becomes part of the past.” – Berenice Abbott
“Does not the very word ‘creative’ mean to build, to initiate, to give out, to act – rather than to be acted upon, to be subjective? Living photography is positive in its approach, it sings a song of life – not death.” – Berenice Abbott
“Today we are confronted with reality on the vastest scale mankind has known and this puts a greater responsibility on the photographer.” – Berenice Abbott
“I am so fascinated with this century it will help keep me alive. I’ll be there until the last minute, fighting.” – Berenice Abbott
“Suppose we took a thousand negatives and made a gigantic montage: a myriad-faceted picture containing the elegances, the squalor, the curiosities, the monuments, the sad faces, the triumphant faces, the power, the irony, the strength, the decay, the past, the present, the future of a city – that would be my favorite picture.” – Berenice Abbott
Explore The Essential Collection of Quotes By Photographers here.
View The Essential Collection Of Photographers Documentaries here.
Jay Maisel’s new book New York In The ’50s offers a unique window into an iconic city by an iconic photographer. Know primarily for his color work this book offers a rare glimpse into his early black and white photography. Photographer Sean Kernan said it brilliantly, “It’s all the wit you’d expect from Jay with none of the color.”
Here’s what Jay says about New York In The ’50s.
“I have been shooting New York for over 60 years now. And though I have achieved age, I can safely say I have never made my way to maturity so I have never been jaded or bored. I think all this is due to the grittiness and hectic quality of the city, you never capture it, it captures you.” After studying painting and graphic design at Cooper Union and Yale, Jay Maisel began his career in photography in 1954. While his portfolio includes the likes of Marilyn Monroe and Miles Davis, he is perhaps best known for capturing the light, color, and gesture found in every day life. This unique vision kept him busy for over 40 years shooting annual reports, magazine covers, jazz albums, advertising and more for an array of clients worldwide. Recently, Maisel has gone back to his archive of early work, and put together a collection of black-and-white images he made as a young man in the 1950s, evidence of a lifetime’s pursuit of a craft and a special talent, one of the best-kept secrets in photographic history. “New York in the ‘50s” is a beautifully-produced monograph that will be equally appreciated by Jay Maisel’s followers, and anyone who has stepped inside his muse, New York City.”
Enchanting Antarctica is explored in this beautiful ebook.
Individual portfolios are followed by a selection of images shot at the same locations at the same times by both artists.
Essays include personal responses to place and insights into the many influences that arise by working side-by-side.
It’s free for a limited time only!
Download it here!
Find out about our next Antarctica workshop here.