Back in 2013, I posted some of my thoughts on words of wisdom from Jay Maisel. Ever since I first saw "A Day With Jay Maisel" on KelbyOne, I've been fascinated by Jay Maisel's work, thoughts and ethos.
So much of our thought processes are the same, yet he has a way of explaining it through his words and his images that just hit home with me. He is one of those photographers that I go back and re-read and re-watch often when I am in a rut or need inspiration.
One of the things that I did not cover in the original post above was the concept of "gesture". I think it had more to do with the fact that I did not truly understand the concept as Jay talks about it until recently. Below is a link to a video where Jay explains the concept way better than I ever could. I'm going to attempt to give my thoughts on it, but better that you get it from the man himself before I possibly butcher it or go awry through my attempt.
Jay Maisel on Gesture
Like many, I thought that "gesture" was something that only a human or living creature could possess.
For me, gesture is not only the way that someone moves, but the air they put off by the way they move, stand, walk or interact with anything. That something unique about what they do, and finding a way to capture the essence of that in a single fragment of time - that one single photo frame.
If you watched the video linked above, you'll soon learn that gesture is much more than a human or living creature concept. Just about anything can have gesture. For me it is about the feeling that that object conveys to you. A tilted leg on a table may give you the impression of unstable or imperfect.
Then you can take those individual pieces and possibly you can get lucky and have multiples of them in the same image.
This concept goes way beyond the science and technology of photography. Forget f-stop, shutter speed, aperture. No longer care about the 12fps of your motor drive or electronic shutter. Today, marketing is more important than ever and the public is fed that the camera or the lens that has the most technology jammed into it is the one that is "best in market".
Best in market is the gear that gets out of your way to allow you to get to what photography is all about. Best in market is what is best for you and you alone. Capturing the "decisive moment", if you like to use the Henri Cartier-Bresson term. Immortalizing the gesture of someone in that shot that will most likely never repeat itself again. Sharing the feeling that you had at that moment or that the subject of the image had; finding out that a crack in a pane of glass, the color and shape of a vase in a specific lighting scenario can make you FEEL something.
I often wondered why after going through all the iterations of high tech DSLRs that for portrait, personal and enriching photographic activities, I reach for the Nikon Df or the Olympus PEN-F. I won't make you guess, I will share it with you.
I know my photography basics. The gear I pick gives me access to use some of Nikon's awesome legacy lenses. The Nikkor 200mm f/4Q, 105mm f/2.5 just to name a few. Put those on the Nikon Df/PEN-F and walk around. Just me. A shutter release. A manual focus lens. So simple, so organic, so inexpensive now. Much less between me and the subject and just a good, honest capture.
I look more for the color and gesture and shape of something. How it makes me feel.
So at the end of the day, what does all this do for me, or for you?
Introspection, self improvement, learning. All those things cause growth. Growth is life, stagnation is death. Finding the gesture in something is finding what makes it sing, gives it life and makes it interesting, what makes it unique to everything else out there. That is not bullshit. It is an epiphany or an awakening that every image maker hopes to have eventually. Sadly, once you have the awakening, you can lose it. We often lose sight of the vision we had. We stop looking for what makes things alive and fall back to the shiny bells, whistles and lights of the newest thing out there.
That is when we need to pull ourselves back into introspection mode and ask ourselves, "why am I doing this?" Start that journey of growth again and move forward. It is a never ending cycle.
I love photography because it allows this once shy, awkward nerd from a small Pennsylvania town to share what I see and feel with others. It allows me to go beyond what is in front of you and dig deeper into the world. Nothing should ever be judged solely on the depth of its skin, but on a grander scale of the potential it has.