Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Color, light and gesture | Jay Maisel

About a year ago I was in Las Vegas for the annual WPPI convention. For those not familiar that's the Wedding and Portrait Photographers International. Good group. To my delight and surprise Jay Maisel was on the roster of speakers. I say surprise because Jay is not a wedding photographer (which naturally dominated this convention). Jay is, however, a legend.

As one of the most famous color photographers ever to pick up a camera Jay has influenced generations of image makers with his rich, powerful images and his delightfully colorful persona. You see, Jay is a New Yorker in the truest sense of the word, that means he can be a bit crusty at times. But that's all part of his charm. For me, he's Knute Rockne and Yoda rolled into one -- an inspiration and a fountain of wisdom.

One of the most important things Jay explained was he never goes out to take pictures. He doesn't have to, he always has a camera with him. When you always carry a camera you are always looking for pictures so you never have to go out to make pictures. Makes perfect sense. Always carry a camera. Check.

The other thing he stressed was the three building blocks in photography -- color, light and gesture. By using these three simple elements your work will stand out. Color, obvious. Light, early morning or late evening to bring out texture, shadow and contrast. And gesture, that subtle or not so subtle movement to add life to your images.

After just an hour with Jay I was so charged up I couldn't wait to hit the Vegas strip and make images. That excitement has carried me throughout the last year, and with luck, for the rest of my life. Jay runs a week long workshop from his New York studio. It's not expensive, it's priceless.



Man on city bus

Cruising the strip

Blue walk

Bright hotel, Las Vegas Strip

Yellow cab, red light

Jay Maisel

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