Sunday, August 7, 2011

A Sunday Morning with Jay Maisel

Sunday mornings are special to me because I do quiet things that I enjoy and not chores that need to be done.
by Charlie Leck

So, I love photography and I’m very happy when I have a camera in my hands and a beautiful world in front of me!

Let’s get things straight from the top: I make no claims about having talent with a camera. I’m okay; but compared to someone who knows what he’s doing, I’m a rank amateur. When I get a really wonderful photograph, I’m a bit surprised. I like those surprises, so I keep taking photographs constantly, just for those surprises.

For instance, I like this photograph of Melissa. She’s so proud of this brother – or boyfriend – who is about to receive his bachelor’s degree. I like all the happiness and pride in the photograph. I put it in the file with all those photos I consider my best. I look at it occasionally and it always makes me smile. Why not?

This is what I mean by doing quiet things on Sunday mornings that I really enjoy.

So, this morning I spent an hour or so with Jay Meisel, an extraordinary photographer from New York City. Jay has a huge sense of humor, a barrel full of wisdom about art and photography and an absolutely fantastic home and studio in Manhattan. If you want to know more about him, you should go to his web site. On the very first page – the home page – of that web site, you immediately find evidence of his enormous talent. If you want to hear a bit from Jay, watch this very nice little video in which he talks very frankly about himself and his work. If you want to learn more about photography, you really should watch it and it will lead you to other pretty exciting stuff.

Santa Fe Workshop Instructor Series – Jay Maisel from StoryPortrait Media on Vimeo.

This morning I watched an hour long video, Another Day with Jay Meisel, on a service I subscribe to (Kelby Training). I tried to find the video for you so you could enjoy the hour without having to pay for it. So far, no luck! I’ll keep trying.

This is the second hour I’ve spent walking through Manhattan and visiting his home with Jay. This master tells me things like: “Talent is over-rated. Work!”

Here’s a You Tube video of Jay, saying little things that inspire me to work harder at my photography.

Maisel began as a student of painting and acknowledges that he was not very good. His instructors, however, knew he had a special talent for color. It all led him, eventually, to a photography career that began in the 1950s. Jay did a lot of commercial work to make a living. Now he only shoots for himself and his work is considered among the tops in photographic arts. His home is a five story building – originally a bank – in Manhattan. It is crammed full of his prints and everything he’s ever shot is carefully stored in the old bank vaults in the basement.

Maisel writes an irregular blog. I try to follow it and it’s always a worthwhile read when I go to it. You can find it here.

Take a look at a portfolio of his work here. It’s really a remarkable presentation. It’s also a gentle thing to do on Sunday morning!

Bear in mind that Maisel doesn’t have Photoshop on his computer. He doesn’t crop his work. As he says, all his cropping is done as he takes the photograph – by the lens itself. He rarely alters a photograph. When he does, it always bears the notation “ai” or altered image. Many of the master’s photographs will look like paintings. Or, they’ll look like someone juiced up the colors on a computer. In fact, they are just the way Maisel photographed them and those colors and complexities were captured by his eye and his camera.

Maisel conducts workshops in Manhattan for guys like I. What the heck? I really should go to one of them and see what I can learn.

I took this photograph in 2008 on Rock Cut Road near Philadelphia, Mississippi. It was one of the most meaningful and extraordinary days of my life and this photograph brings the day back to me again and again.

My photographs are for me. I don't attempt to sell them. They're carefully cataloged on both the computer and in print. I rarely frame one, but there are a few around the house that are meaningful to us.

In September we're going to Prague for a week and I really want to take my best camera equipment with me. It's not an easy thing to do and there is always the worry of losing a camera in traveling. I'll need to think this through and seek some advice from people who always haul their good cameras with them.

This photo I took during the summer of 2010 when family members from France were visiting us for a couple of weeks. They were very photogenic and it was difficult not to pester them constantly with my camera.

Sunday mornings are so wonderful. I make sure I use them for only enjoyable endeavors.


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