Cover of book It's Not About the F-Stop

It's Not About the F-Stop

by: Jay Maisel

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An awesome book about photography: essays about photography accompanied by photographs from Jay Maisel
19 Highlights | 1 Note
  • Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid
    …I realized at that point that each and every picture in the show was a variation of this. A moment charged with all the things that move me, and the fear of losing it. The apprehensive, the near certainty that something or someone, if not myself, was going to compromise the image.
    Note: Nope never felt this. Don't remember. Want to feel it though…
  • Never go back. Shoot it now. When you come back, it will always be different
  • Never go back
    … So I explain that I mean you have to shoot it now. If you go back, it will never be the same. It may be better, it may be worse, but never the same. It can be extremely valuable to return to something again and again, to try different light, different viewpoints, and different attitudes, but always shoot first, and then think about the future.
  • … Suddenly, I realized I was quoting the wonderful Nat King Cole song 'Orange colored sky', and it explained how I felt about the whole question:
    “I was walking along, minding my business
    when out of an orange colored sky
    Flash! Bam! Ala-ka-zam!
    Wonderful you came by”
    That's about it. If you are fortunate enough to be open to what's in your field of vision, something wonderful happens. The most memorable and touching photographs are inexplicable both in their motivation and execution. They are not about the photographer's conscious desire to go out and shoot this or that. The photographer is waylaid or ('taken') by this amazing juxtaposition of form and content in front of them that it leaves them with no choice but to shoot.
  • Be aware of the ordinary
    There's a Tibetan proverb:
    “Objects are there only if you see them.”
  • I gained another insight about my resentment when I read Anna Fel's book Necessary Dreams: Ambition in Women's Changing Lives. Fels defines ambition as a desire to achieve mastery of one's craft combined with a desire to receive public recognition for it.
  • There are no defined areas of subject matter, It's without limit. The average person passes by many things that seem mundane and, therefore, are to be avoided, the one who stops and sees this object is not just the creator of the photo, but one who is enriched by many things overlooked by those disparately searching for photographs. They walk past these photographs unknowingly.
  • Very often, there's a possibility that people will misinterpret or reinterpret your work. Sometimes it can drive you crazy. Other times, you may learn something from it. You never know!
  • Rip in the fabric …
    To find this kind of stimulus is the most difficult thing of all. What can be in your own neighborhood that turns you on and makes you want to shoot? I'm looking for the rip in the fabric, the thing that looks surrealistic, the juxtaposition of disparate elements, something that is “wrong”. This can be almost anything, but one has to be open to it, to not look past it. You must stay sensitive to what's literally right in front of you.
  • Part of being free and open is not just the ability to accept what's in front of you at the time you're shooting. It also means being free enough to accept surprises that happen to you in the editing process.
  • Don't stare
    I'm really not aware of it, but I do know what it is, I'm trying to avoid staring, looking straight ahead, trying to avoid lazy looking, trying to avoid shooting only from the height of my eyeball. I'm looking for subjects and access to height, and trying to see things in an environment I've never seen before.

    It's ok to walk with your head down, it may lead you to explore things on the grounds. But look up, look around, try to see the things you've never seen before. Don't look for specific things, they'll be there Be open to all the other things that you may miss while you stare.
  • How could you not?
    I emphasize that 'I like this' or 'don't like this' is not a criticism - it's an opinion.

    There is one criticism, though, that leaves me speechless. That one goes something like this: “With all due respect, Jay, why did you take that picture?”
    Oh my God, I can't answer that. If you don't see why the picture was taken, there is no way to explain it.

    We each approach life in our own individual manner based on our education, personality, and a whole list of vague and unconscious factors. If one chooses a subject and is happy with it, it doesn't at all follow that others are willing or capable of either appreciating it or understanding it. Art is not a left-brained, objective, analytic thing. Art is a right-brained, subjective, very personal thing.

    This is when you have to be not defensive, but simply explain “
    How could you not?” This won't satisfy anybody, but you really don't have to explain anything to anybody. If you have done your best and some people don't like it, that's just the way its going to be. You can't let them censor or bully you into doing things that they will appreciate. You really have to not worry about external validation.
    Art is the one endeavor that is not open to cross-examination.
  • I sat quietly, no longer running around to capture moving skaters, and enjoyed what was presented on the surface before me, It's all a matter of waiting and changing your attitude to fit what's happening in front of you. Not the other way around.
  • A
    Look, stop, and Shoot
    An important thing I've learned through bitter experience is, whether you're in a cab or driving, STOP IMMEDIATELY. If you go for a few feet, you may not turn back, and the further you go, the less likely you are to stop. If you go on for a mile, you're never going back. And you will kick yourself for the lost opportunity. Do not let inertia keep you from photographing.
  • But I'm older now, and wiser, too. Wiser means you realize you are not as smart as you used to think you were. It also means you've lost the reasoning that made you feel it was cheating to be helped
  • Try not to hate things. Try not to have things you don't want to shoot. Try to be open.
  • It was the first time that I became aware of how I was my own worst enemy, searching so hard for one thing that I lost the bigger picture. The most important thing I learned is that, no matter what specific thing you're searching for, no matter what you're hoping for, don't put on visual or emotional blinders. They will severely limit your work.
  • One of the things I liked about commercial works was the consistent exposure to things I wasn't familiar with. One of the things that drove me nuts was that the preparation I should have made for the problems I had no idea existed…

    Earlier on I talked about every day having to deal with things I wasn't familiar with. That was a euphemism for: every day I learned anew how ignorant I was. The other side of the coin was every day I was able to steal a new experience and it was all because of the camera.
  • At this point, I am more interested with observation rather than creation. This series is an attempt to show how the act of looking can totally redefine objects and moments in everyday life.