Jay Maisel Light Gesture & Color – Book Review

August 13, 2015 ·

Michael Williams

9780134032269_LightGestureColor_Cvr_Press

Jay Maisel Light Gesture & Color

By Jay Maisel

New Riders www.newriders.com Kelby One www.kelbyone.com

ISBN 978-0-13-403226-9 $54.99

With the publication of Jay Maisel Light Gesture & Color, the successful New York-based photographer’s workshop is now, at least in book form, available to a far wider audience. This is a work dedicated to the art of seeing. If you are looking for a book explaining what lens, shutter speed, and f-stop a master like Maisel used to create a particular image, look elsewhere. That information is not found in this soft-cover book. What this book does hold for the reader is a collection of Maisel’s images created over a 61-year career in photography, together with his insights into each image he has chosen to display for the reader.

Throughout most of the book Maisel’s text appears on the left-hand page and the image it discusses appears on the right-hand page. Occasionally a series of images and comments are related, but mostly they stand alone as if the master is simply musing about an individual image and then moves on to another seemingly unrelated thought. Make no mistake about it, Maisel is clearly the master and the reader is the pupil, but Maisel is also learning as he goes, returning to themes and places he has visited before and still trying for better images.

Headings such as “I Miss 99 Out of 100 of These” “Background Could Be Better” “Shoot It, Dammit!” and “Move Your Ass” show Maisel takes his own advice to “be your severest critic” and finally to “Keep at it.”

Early in the book, under the heading “Joy” after discussing various phases of his long career, Maisel asks the reader regarding their subject matter, “Does it give you joy?” Then he goes on to explain, “When I did this particular image of the light falling into the forest, illuminating some things and silhouetting others, my heart sang.”

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Under the heading, “Jobs Can Be Fun” Maisel notes that, “I always tried to structure my assignments when I did commercial work so that I would be shooting something that I was so excited about that I would have been happy to shoot it for myself.” Then it becomes all about where and when. In this case the where was small towns in Maine from a helicopter, as to when he advises, “Dawn is not always the best choice, but it’s the way to bet.”

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Throughout the book, Maisel points out that he continues to learn and to try new things every day and that he doesn’t have any magic or secret formula for creating amazing images every time he lifts his camera to his well-trained eye. Late in the book he uses the heading, “A Little Knowledge Can Be A Wonderful Thing” to dispense some wisdom about how the colors yellow and blue can create a vibration. He then provides this answer to the question, “How do I use these things in my photography?” “I have no Idea.” Then he adds, “…the more knowledge you have, the more things are open and available to you.” The image that follows speaks for itself.

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Jay Maisel dedicates the book to Mr. Leon Friend, his art teacher at Abraham Lincoln High School in Brooklyn, New York.  Early on Mr. Friend pushed young Mr. Maisel and his fellow classmates in the “Art Squad” to stretch their expectations, their standards of excellence, and ultimately themselves. For this Jay Maisel simply says, “Thank you Mr. Friend.” To which I’m sure the reader will add their own thanks to Mr. Friend as well for giving us all Jay Maisel.

Highly recommended.

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Mike Williams, is a hobbyist photographer, sometimes art show participant, and works as the head librarian of the Central Library in downtown Indianapolis. A passionate technology explorer and early adopter his first digital camera was the Chinon ES-3000 in the mid 1990s. He and his wife Debbie enjoy traveling with their cameras as much as they can and hope to someday attend a Luminous Landscape workshop.

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