April for Avery

April 2, 2011

Posted by Jamie Smith

I hate cancer, so I love any chance I get to take advantage of it.

Less than four years ago I began working for Jay Maisel: First as a part time assistant, eventually full time Studio Manager, and currently as producer of his photography workshops in New York City.

While running the studio on a daily basis (for roughly two years) there was always a revolving door of visitors who made up an interesting cast characters – including former employees who would ring the front bell and the introduction would be something like this: “Hi, I worked for Jay back in 1980 some-place, etc, etc…”

The list of former employees seemed endless: Gabe, Paul, Albert, Tom, Emily, Stephen, Jeffery, John, Jackson, Josh, Geoff, Peter, etc… (FYI, “etc” is probably about 90% of the names that are on this list…)

In the reality the number of people who are privileged enough to say, “I worked for Jay” is minute.

“What is it like working for Jay Maisel? What did you learn? How did it influence your work? These are questions I am often asked. They are almost impossible to answer in any succinct way.

There is, however, one particular image I admire of Jay’s that captures the spirit of what is often difficult for me to articulate. If I have it framed in time, this image will hang in our new apartment, before our baby arrives this summer.

Man Painting Ship

Personally it seems fitting to me that a hard working photographer who was formally trained as a painter took this image – and the subject is that of a hardworking painter.

I don’t know much about where Jay took it, what lens he used, or what his inspiration was for taking it, but I know that out of the MILLIONS of incredible images he has photographed, it is significant enough for him to have it on display on the third floor gallery of his building. And it is also part of one of his main teaching slide shows. That is good enough for me.

In answer to the question, “What do you learn by working for Jay?”: It sometimes feels the same as using a 9” roller to paint the entire side of a huge ship – the task is monumental, but if you keep working hard, good things will come. It is the same principal as the work ethic it takes to produce truly great photography work. When you are done, some people might make the easy assumption that the finished product was given to you or the result of dumb luck. But the reality could not be farther from the truth.

“Some guy painting the side of a ship – big deal,” you might say. I know a lot of photographers who make things much harder and more complex then they need to be (myself included). But making an interesting yet simple image look so easy to capture is actually very difficult. Maybe that is what makes it a “real Jay Maisel picture.”

Another thing that makes this print personally valuable to me is that part of the proceeds from my purchase are being donated by Jay’s studio to help my friend Avery – a young Californian who has been battling cancer since before she turned two years old last February.

Be generous with your work. Make it personal. A few other lessons I learned from working for Jay Maisel.

April for Avery

Purchase any of Jay’s work from his website during the entire month of April, and Jay’s studio will pay for the cost of shipping it to you anywhere with in the United States and 10% of the proceeds will be donated on your behalf to help Avery’s fight against cancer…

To Learn More About Avery:

To See More of Jay’s Work:

All donations acepted on the CaringBridge website go directly to their organization. Friends of Avery’s have already exceed my fundraising goal for CaringBridge, so if you are interested in getting involved, what makes the most sense at this time is posting good thoughts to her guest book or if you prefer to make a direct donation to her family to help with medical expenses it can be made out to AVERY HENDERSON and mailed to:

Avery Henderson c/o
Nicole Watson
373 Beresford Ave.
Redwood City, CA 94061

— Jamie Smith

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