I like this book. I like the way Jay Maisel thinks, probably because I think many of the same things. I do the same thing as he writes about:
All year long I walk around shooting as minimally as I can. One camera, a zoom lens, and that’s it.
One night a year [Halloween] I add an on-line flash.
I do this with great trepidation, as I really don’t know how to use the damn thing.
I try to sneak out of the house before my wife can see me and howl, “Oh my God, you have no idea what you’re doing.”
It’s a top-of-the-line Nikon flash. It has too many numbers and letters. It doesn’t just intimidate me, it eludes me completely.
I have never used the flash that came with my Olympus OMD.
The book contains a short introduction of seven pages. The rest of the book contains two-page spreads with a photo on one page and a short, pithy description on the other page. As you can see by the quote above, a number of the spreads have Maisel’s self-deprecating humor, as in the following:
I love to photography my daughter asleep. There is none of the clenched look that some people have when asleep. She looks angelic and peaceful. That’s what I’m trying to get.
Never mind that when she awakens and sees me, she starts bellowing out, “Do you have any idea how creepy it is to wake up and find you’re being photographed?”
“Yes, dear. Now relax and go back to sleep.”
Other spreads have Maisel’s advice.
You have to be ready to shoot at all times.
Don’t over think things in front of you. If it moves you, shoot it. If it’s fun, shoot it. If you’ve never seen it before, shoot it.
. . . There was no sun. There was just a pissed off, disappointed photographer who had been thwarted in his attempt.
Petulant, unhappy, and frustrated, I started throwing all my tripods, cameras, and miscellaneous crap into the car.
I was there with my ex-wife, who looked at the spectacle I was making of myself and simply said, “Turn around, stupid.” I looked and was amazed to see that the sky had turned blood red and the building were reflecting the red afterglow.
Had I not been told to look, I would have quit, ignorant of what was really there, because I had “made plans” and was wearing visual and emotional blinders that limited my perceptions and my vision.
It’s important to realize that the images are everywhere, not just where you want or expect them to be.
You can’t just turn on when something happens, you have to be turned on all the time. Then things happen.
There are no rules.
The thing I’m aiming at is to remind you that the more generic your image is, the less surprising, challenging, or specific it will be.
Try not for the symbol, the familiar, the iconic. Try, instead, to make your pictures a new look, a very personal, insightful type of gesture you’ve not seen in pictures again and again over the years.
So we all miss most of the best shots. Don’t despair, keep working on it. You are not alone.
Light can be instantaneous. You must be ready, and you must have the damn camera with you.
I ordered Light, Gesture, and Color on-line. When I first looked at it I was disappointed because there was so little text. I tend to like dense books with a lot of content. This book was exactly the opposite. There is not much content, but the content is concise, witty, and useful. There is very little about the technical aspects of photography. The book will not tell you how to operate your camera. It will tell you how to see better. Isn’t that what we are all ultimately striving for?