Jay Maisel: Photographer

A short film about legendary photographer and teacher Jay Maisel. Jay’s thinking about photography always catches the interest of people looking to improve their photography and indeed their approach to photograph. The film gives a glimpse into the world of Jay Maisel and a look inside the New York City building from which he works. Talk about living in a fantasy, he owns an entire building for his studio and his collections such as “circles” in the circle room. So cool to imagine that he not only collects what he sees with his camera but actually collects objects that interest him and has is own living museum to house them . Kind of reminds me of Andy Warhol and the enormous collection of object that were sold after his death.

Early in the film Jay talks about not setting out to photograph a certain thing but to discover subjects along the way.

“When I go out a try not to predetermine what I’m going to do” Jay says in the film. Another version of this is the quote “Try to go out empty and let your images fill you up.” also attributed to Jay Maisel.

This is the way I work also. If I’m not working in the studio or shooting a preconceived concept, I try to aim myself in the direction of something of interest but I know full well that I’ll be discovering things along the way that will most likely turn out to be more significant that the target subject. I might not even get to the target subject because I take so many detours along the way. You might call them distractions but the distractions are something I find interesting and hopefully the viewer of my work will also.

“Allow yourself to lose your way.” – Jay Maisel


Last week’s photo journey is a good example of this process. My wife had a conference down in the Keene, New Hampshire area and asked if I wanted to come along. Anytime there is a chance to photograph in an area that I’m not to familiar I jump at it. I drop my wife off around 8:30 and then I have the whole day to explore the area. The only vague plan I had was perhaps to visit a series of covered bridges in the region. This gave me some waypoints to point that car towards – it was January in New England, grey, white, cold. I wasn’t really expecting much in terms of pretty covered bridge photographs.

Here are some photographs from the day to give you an idea of the range of subjects I was able to discover simply by wandering around for hours.

Art Prints

Trying to get a better angle on a covered bridge in the Keene area (and trying not to slip on the ice and breaking my tail bone) , I spotted this old rusty lawn chair in the woods.  This discovery excited me more then the bridge.  I loved the red and yellow tones against the grey/white landscape.
Art PrintsWinchester, NH is a town having a rough time.  Most of the downtown seemed to be slipping into the river.  Hurricane Irene must have devastated the town.  I loved the rich texture and decay on this abandoned building near the river.
Art PrintsMy wife was attending a meeting that in part was talking about the Pisgah State Park an area of 13,000 acres of wilderness in Chesterfield, Hinsdale and Winchester. It is the largest state park in New Hampshire and contains a complete watershed north of the Ashuelot River, seven ponds, four highland ridges, numerous wetlands, and a 20-acre (8 ha) parcel of old-growth forest.

Amazingly this park has a strand of forest that has never been cut.  It was just too inconvenient chop down.  Unlike the rest of New England which as been cut a number of times over its history.

Unfortunately the New Hampshire park systems is structured in a way that the parks like this which don’t have entrance fees, don’t get the same funding that a park like Hampton Beach for example would get.  The park is considering doing some forest management and lumber sales to support the park but the challenge is to get the public to understand the need for this and the benefits to an healthy eco-system of selective opening of the forest canopy.  There are also issues of invasive species coming in if the canopy is open.  Its a complex issue.

Anyway with the park in mind I followed a sign to one of the entrances and at the end of a long, long dirt road I found the last house before the park entrance displaying hundreds of blow mold Christmas decorations.  It was wild.  In the middle of nowhere was this amazing Christmas display.

Art Prints

Near the end of my day of discovery, I stumbled upon the Stonewall Farms Learning Center.

Stonewall Farm is a nonprofit working farm and educational center. They are the only working dairy farm and education center in the region open to the public. They operate a 30 head certified organic dairy, a year-round community supported agriculture (CSA) garden, farmstand and a Learning Center that draws 20,000 visitors per year. Set in a scenic valley, the Farm consists of pastures, fields and woodlands and is open, free of charge, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.


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This was a fun discovery.  Unfortunately the whole place was covered with a sheet of ice, the sun was going down, I was tired and I was running out of time.  There were cute farm animals to photograph – ducks, alpacas, pigs, goats but then I saw off in the distance a cool area that attracted my attention – a greenhouse and old corn crib.  I headed down the icy road and took some of the best photographs of the day.  You never know what you will find on a photography outing and that is the best part.
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