One of the highlights of my 2012 was meeting legendary photographer Jay Maisel at PhotoPlus in New York. He’s one of a handful of photographers that have deeply influenced me as a creative person.
Jay doesn’t think in terms of subject matter, but instead shoots whatever he likes, visually seeking what he describes as light, color, and gesture. While light and color are fairly easy to understand, gesture is certainly more elusive. Jay says “Gesture is the thing that gives everything its intrinsic character,” an idea I really love and think about whenever I’m out shooting.
For me it’s that connection to a subject that gives a photographer a deeper understanding of how to photograph it. The way trees create a particular pattern, or how light brings attention to shadows, making for a more interesting composition. By themselves these things are not that unique, it’s when they are used within context of a particular image that they become so important.
At PhotoPlus, I had six large images on display at the Canson booth, and you can imagine I was somewhat more attentive when Jay dropped in and took his time to study all of them. He was very generous, and his feedback was both flattering and humbling. But most importantly, his attitude was one of kindness and respect, a sign of someone who is both confident and humble as an artist and human being. These are qualities in short supply these days, and can help you grow more as a photographer more than any workshop you can take.
Here’s a great short documentary on Jay, and I highly recommend you check out his work if you’re not familiar with it.