Jay Maisel Featured in Shutterbug Magazine

Jay Maisel Featured in Shutterbug Magazine

Shutterbug Magazine's Suzanne Driscoll caught up with Jay to discuss the power of perception to gain some insight into Jay's concept of gesture in capturing emotions and his view on storytelling in a series.

You can view the article here.

Suzanne writes, "Maisel’s advice for those looking to capture a gesture or tell a story through photography is to 'never lose your curiosity and to think about what you are shooting before you shoot it. When you see the right moment you will know."

For more about capturing gesture, you can find signed copies of Light Gesture & Color by Jay Maisel in our online store.

Matt Dean
Studio Manager
Jay Maisel Photography

As I was Saying...

As I was Saying...

When I moved out of the Bank in 2015, it coincided with my age and arthritis catching up with me. If I had known I was going to live this long, I would have gone for the extended warranty on parts.

Anyway, I lost about 27 steps going to first base, and it became too difficult to shoot the things I wanted to shoot, the way I wanted to shoot them.

Since I was always an obsessive person, I had to figure out something to do. 

I’ve been extremely fortunate to have Jeffrey Chong and Matt Dean working with me. They have lightened the load considerably. Here I was with 61 years of shooting, 45 of them with film and Matt figured out a way to scan my film into digital. 

This sounds simple today, but we had been trying using scanners, and it was a tough, slow, expensive unsatisfactory experience. Matt figured out that we could do the job by using a Nikon D810 with a Nikkor Macro 60mm lens. Since he’s started, we’ve done almost 14,000 images. We have now switched to a D850, and he’s even happier with that. 

I now spend my time looking at all the stuff I shot on film over the years. I enjoy immensely going back over all the work. I feel very lucky to be able to have the chance to edit all the work that I never had time to edit because I was always shooting.

What you will see on this website are collections of work that I shot from 1954 to 2000 in film.

Some of it was new to me. It was so long ago I was seeing it with a fresh eye.

I learned a lot about myself in the process, and the experience was joyous and humbling. Joyous when I found stuff I loved and humbling because there was so much crap.

I used to tell my classes when they raved about my work and compared it to theirs, Believe me, I’ve taken more terrible images than all of you put together.” 

The trick is not to show them to people. 

I’ve got a sign over my desk that says, Editing is next to Godliness.” The editing process itself is constantly changing. I find myself changing my standards and criteria for picking pictures. Someone said, That causes a lack of consistency.” 

I remember the quote from Ralph Waldo Emmerson, "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”

I’ll add more subjects to the website from time to time, and I hope some of you will let me know how you feel about the stuff. 


- Jay Maisel

New York in the 50's


“I have been shooting New York for over 60 years now. And though I have achieved age, I can safely say I have never made my way to maturity so I have never been jaded or bored. I think all this is due to the grittiness and hectic quality of the city, you never capture it, it captures you.” After studying painting and graphic design at Cooper Union and Yale, Jay Maisel began his career in photography in 1954. While his portfolio includes the likes of Marilyn Monroe and Miles Davis, he is perhaps best known for capturing the light, color, and gesture found in every day life. This unique vision kept him busy for over 40 years shooting annual reports, magazine covers, jazz albums, advertising and more for an array of clients worldwide. Recently, Maisel has gone back to his archive of early work, and put together a collection of black-and-white images he made as a young man in the 1950s, evidence of a lifetime’s pursuit of a craft and a special talent, one of the best-kept secrets in photographic history. “New York in the ‘50s” is a beautifully-produced monograph that will be equally appreciated by Jay Maisel’s followers, and anyone who has stepped inside his muse, New York City.

Signed copies of Jay’s recently published book of early black and white work; ‘Jay Maisel New York in the 50’s’ are currently available for $75.00 (includes shipping for U.S. orders).

Bearing Witness

I recently put together a small book in memory of September 11, 2001. This the foreword to the book, and some of the images. I’d like to share this with you.

All of us were forever marked by the obscenity of that day. Denial, depression, anger, reactive symptoms of death, all took their toll. It wasn’t the focused fury of December 7th, 1941, or the sadness of November 22, 1963. Though I lived through all those dates: I was 10 years old during Pearl Harbor and 32 when Kennedy was assassinated.

This time, when the twin towers came down, I was 70 years old and concerned about my daughter Amanda, who was only 8. Though you may be fearless in youth, once you have a child, you worry a lot. All parents know that.

Two weeks after 9/11, still numb, depressed, and disconnected (as we all were), I had to go to ground zero. I took my camera but I had no idea what I was going to see, do or photograph. I just had to be there; to bear witness to what had happened and was happening.

This is a record of some of what I saw.

It’s been almost 10 years now, and I feel I must do this book. It’s dedicated to all those who are in it and all those who are no longer with us. I felt a kinship with all those I photographed that day, as we all feel a kinship with those who died that day.

People have asked if I lost anyone I knew that day.

My answer is no; I lost them all.

As I Was Saying

A few months ago, I promised that I would write on an irregular basis. Ain’t that the truth?

My daughter Amanda wrote (at age 17) something about her photography a while ago while she was applying to colleges. I lost it somewhere in my editing room. Now my editing room, at best, is crowded. At worst, when I can’t find anything I need in there, I devote an enormous amount of time to cleaning it up. Hercules and the Augean Stables come to mind. In the process, this little gem came to light.

A little background first. If you are a parent, you will understand this. If you’re not, listen carefully. It may explain the mood swings of your friends who are parents.

When your child reaches 15 or so, certain transformations take place. Some say it’s hormonal, others know it’s the work of the devil. Your child suddenly perceives you as an imbecile. If you’re lucky, a lovable imbecile. You are also relegated to a position of irrelevance and a source of unbelievably stupid announcements and pronouncements.

But never fear, as they grow older, you will get smarter; they don’t understand how or why, and it just amazes and irritates them.

This thing Amanda wrote came as a complete surprise to me, as I’ve always made it a point to avoid “teaching” her anything about art or photography. I guess, in a perverse way, it’s helped her to make her own choices (which was my intent). Here’s the quote:

These photos are not cropped, retouched, or altered. None are artificially lit or set up. At this point, I am more concerned with observation than with creation. This series is an attempt to show how the act of looking can totally redefine objects and moments in everyday life.

It took me 80 years to get to this point and she nails it at 17, says it better than I ever did, and isn’t even interested in photography.

I said to her, “I’m amazed at this. I never told you this, and you never listen to anything I say anyway.”
She smiled that little smile that usually precedes her “one-line killers” and said, “I listen, Dad. I just discard most of it.”

She just turned 18 and an old friend of mine, Tanya Chuang, texted me and said “You’re about to have your daughter graduate from high school soon. Are you going to cry?” Now I don’t do email, and texting to me is a one-finger, long-term project, so understand that this was a commitment: I texted back “L.A. (my wife) asked me the same thing, and I honestly told her I didn’t think I would. She then gave me the graduation invitation and program to look at. I choked up and almost lost it right then and there. So fuck you all, I will probably be sobbing the whole week. You guys make it so hard to keep up any semblance of a tough façade.”

Part of the reason I’m writing about this is that 18 and graduation are pivotal points in Amanda’s life and mine. Our relationship has, over time, changed as all relationships do.

My wife has been the best mother Amanda could have wished for. Me, not so much. I’ve gotten better though. L.A. has reminded me that in the beginning I was too busy being an “artist” to spend enough time with Amanda. But the point of mentioning this is the old Harry Belafonte song, “Turn around and she’s four, turn around and she’s a young girl, walking out of the door.” It’s so damn true. She was just a child yesterday, and today she’s a beautiful young woman; smart and hard-working, sarcastic, funny and leaving.

I’d like to share some favorite images of Amanda over the years. I promise to write more often.

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