Nothing unusual, yet… – photography by Jay Maisel

Jay Maisel's New York book cover

I heard about Jay Maisel a long time ago. Legendary for his photographs as well as directness and language, Jay Maisel is always the source of many great quotes regarding street photography and shooting in general. He inspired me, as many photographers before, to go out daily with camera, looking for subjects to photograph in your own neighbourhood.

Go out empty

Just the short video listed at the end of this post will leave you inspired to look with fresh eyes on your own town. See along with posts for some of my favorite quotes.

Color happens

For the “Exploring the Masters” series here on blog, I was looking forward seeing more of his images in selected photography books. It was not easy to put hands on any of those, and finally, the interlibrary loan came to rescue.

I have to admit, it was a bit of disappointment at first. There wasn’t much in the books I have not seen before, and in fact, some images were showing up over and over again. Which makes sense, seasoned commercial photographer like Jay Maisel would know to show only his very best. And nobody takes exceptional image every time they press the shutter. Those best, maybe 50 of them altogether, are examples of great work, in a wide variety of subject matters. He is one of those rare examples of photographers being able and willing to handle every assignment, and not just specializing in portrait or food. Something unique nowadays.

Other than unique images of New York City, like snow fall or “Don’t walk sign”, I was surprised by the presence of landscapes, electrical poles, and aerial views. I did not know that about Jay Maisel photography. They all had one thing in common- amazing light. I will never look at the electric lines spreading over field in the same way. And if there is one thing to learn from Jay Maisel’s work, is how to use the color to create astounding images. Just see the example in this post.

If you have never heard of Jay Maisel, take a look at the resources below. Look him up on-line, for interviews and images alike. You will be sure to learn something new.

"Don't walk sign on the corner near the World Trade Center" and "A view form 42nd Street and Third Avenue" by Jay Maisel on page 244 of Jay Maisel's New York
“Don’t walk sign on the corner near the World Trade Center” and “A view form 42nd Street and Third Avenue” by Jay Maisel on page 244 of Jay Maisel’s New York

Recommended books of photographs by Jay Maisel:

  • Jay Maisel’s New York – probably my favorite. Collection of street images of NYC, some with people, but many – without. Excellent use of color.
  • Light on America: photographs – collection of images taken by Jay Maisel from Maine to Florida, and everywhere in between. Power lines, aerials, great use of light.
  • On assignment-an interview with the photographer about assignments, commercial photography and photography as business and passion. Great read, accompanied by selection of images.
  • Most Beautiful Place in the World – edited by Jay Maisel, the book contains few of his images from NYC, and selected images of few more legendary photographers like Galen Rowell, Ernst Haas and more.

To learn more about Jay Maisel, see the following places:

For more posts in “Exploring the Masters” series visit the summary page.

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Update May 2016:
Few more Jay Maisel resources:
– YouTube video of Jay Maisel talking about his photography
Selection of master photographs