Light , Gesture, & Color

In Books, Influences, Study the Masters by David15 Comments

20080910_dp771_0304_1024x1024   The first, and only time, I met Jay Maisel, he asked what kind of photography I did. At the time I was busy with humanitarian assignments and I told him so. He looked me in the eye, having just met me, and said, “You mean people pay you to do that? You’re an evil man.” And then he laughed. I think I love Jay Maisel for the same reason I love anyone willing to be themselves and still not take themselves so seriously. Jay is, without a doubt, his very own person. And his photography, often copied, is very much his own thing. He is no-nonsense in his approach, has lived long enough to get past the bullsh*t, and has created a very impressive body of work in his lifetime. Everytime Miles Davis Kind of Blue album comes on on my iPod, there’s Miles Davis on the cover art, a photograph Jay made long ago. Red-Wall-And-Rope_1024x1024

So when Jay’s book, Light, Gesture, and Color was released recently, I was in  a hurry to get my hands on it. And it is, like Jay seems to be, no nonsense, and perfect in its own way. The cover is uninspiring (I didn’t include a cover photograph because I couldn’t readily find on online, and these images are representative of what I love most about Jay’s work, they are not necessarily in the book itself), the typography, with its long line lengths,  is a little tiring to read. It’s blunt. Jay will never be accused of an over-fondness for words as I have been. The book is simple – an image on one page, and a short, to-the-point lesson on the facing page.

But what images, and what lessons! And like so many of the great voices in photography, he shuffles past the trendy technical stuff and focuses on what matters, on the stuff that will, ultimately, make long careers (professionally or not) making compelling work for those that heed the wisdom.DT255_MR230_train_Romania_1024x1024MR855_hot_cabbie_1024x1024

If you wanted to sit down with a celebrated photographer with a lifetime of making photographs behind him, and ask him: “What does it take to make great photographs?”, this book would be that chance. Highly, highly, recommended. Sure, I’ve got a bit of a man-crush on Jay – but I know good wisdom when I see it. This one – eventually, when I’ve read it a few more times and dog-earred the pages – will go beside my treasured copy of Freeman Patterson’s Photography and the Art of Seeing.

Check out Jay Maisel’s Light, Gesture, and Color (Amazon Link)

Even if you’re not looking for a book, take a spin through Jay’s website and consider this an installment in my Study the Masters series.




  1. Pingback: Light , Gesture, & Color – news.iNthacity

  2. In this book, the legendary Mr. Maisel admits to post processing 8 images (among hundreds). What’d he do? Except for one, where he lightened the shadows, he frigging cropped ’em! What does that say?

  3. “Light, Color and Gesture”, the moment I see these eternal pillars of Jay’s photography in the subject line of the mail in my inbox, I realized that now it is Jay Maisel’s turn. I have been awaiting for this post from the beginning of this Study the masters series.

  4. It is indeed a truly wonderful book. It is totally Jay. When I read it, I could hear him speaking in my ear. He is an outstanding teacher.

  5. Jay Maisel is truly one of the masters of photography. I loved seeing him in person a few years ago, listening to him talk about his photos as they appeared on screen. The guy is amazing.

  6. A true Master of the Craft… I look forward to finding a copy of the book too.. thanks for the heads up…

  7. When I first saw Jay’s work, it was during a panel at my first Photoshop World, five years ago. I couldn’t figure out why he deserved to be up there. Less than a year later, I realized the mistake that I had made.

    I’m about two-thirds of the way through the book, and enjoying every page flip.

    1. Author

      Yes, Kind of Blue. I totally screwed that one up. It’s been corrected now. Great album!

  8. What I’d really like to know is, what is this “Miles Davis Blue Like Jazz” reference? There’s a DVD/soundtrack on Amazon but nothing mentioning Davis. (Now, back to photography.)

  9. Jay Maisel is wonderful. I own his New York book. I also own Freeman Patterson’s books ( I think all of them). I wish aspiring photographers would buy more books and not gear. Your Craft & Vision series is great and I own several titles ( just wish they were bound so I could refer to them more easily. Someone (you ? ) might consider posting suggestions for keeping your ebooks organized on computers.

  10. The one and only time I got to see Jay speak was at Photoshop World. It was the “must see’ on my list of sessions and he so did not disappoint. I’m a total fangirl! And if I recall correctly, there was a fellow named David duChemin sitting right next to me in that session. 🙂 Totally looking forward to getting my hands on this book!

    1. Author

      Melissa – You’re in Vancouver, right? I have an extra copy you can have! Publisher sent me 2. Want it?

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.