It isn’t often that you are given the chance to spend several days with one of your heros, but in the middle of December I was fortunate enough to get that chance. I had the amazing opportunity to spend time with one of the most talented, highest earning, well respected, and just plain great guys, Jay Maisel.
I first heard about Jay through the director of the photography program I attended in Washington DC, Chris Alvanas. Chris would always talk about the salon groups Jay would take part of in New York City. When Chris would talk about Jay it was as if he was describing some mythic photographic creature. After seeing his work I was hooked; regurgitating the stories I had heard from Chris about Jay to anyone that wanted to listen to them. Jay is a master of both available light and his understanding/implementation of color. So for a photographer like myself that only likes to shoot with available light and in color it was inevitable that he would become one of my heros.
The workshop began with a questioner. One of the questions was, “What do you hope to gain from this workshop?” I answered, “Inspiration.” It seemed like a logical answer at the time, now in hindsight I realize that I couldn’t have ever known what I would gain from my few days with Jay. I will return to this thought in a moment.
One of the best things about the workshop was that it was held in Jay’s house. Calling Jay’s house a house is a bit of a stretch. He lives in a 6 story, 35,000-square-foot bank building that was built at the turn of the 20th century. The building itself is amazing, but what’s inside is so much better.
It only makes sense to keep all his negatives and prints in his climate controlled bank vault.
Two floors are used primarily as gallery space. These are just a few photos of some of his work on display.
Jay studied painting and graphic design at Cooper Union and Yale, and the next floor showed how his studies continue on today.
Colors and shapes that excite him are everywhere.
I will build this in my house one day.
Inspiration. That’s was the best I could come up with? What a total cliché. Of course I would be inspired. It didn’t hit me until the end of the workshop that I really understood what it was I wanted from his workshop. I wanted validation and hope. I have spent a lot of time with many different photographers, but Jay was the first one that I have ever met that is always shooting. He is always shooting because he always has his camera with him. I pride myself on always having my camera with me, but Jay humiliates me in comparison.
It is easy to build someone up in your head, more often than not they are never as great as you imagine they will be. Somehow after seeing how Jay still loves photography gave me this feeling of validation. It gave me hope that I will still love photography as much now as when I’m 80. It has taken me almost a month to write this all because I still can’t express how 5 days with Jay Maisel has undoubtedly changed my outlook on my life as a photographer. Maybe in a few more weeks I’ll be able to better express myself.
Headed home… until next time.