The book, It’s Not About the F-Stop is a beautiful visual and verbal exploration of photography from world acclaimed photographer, Jay Maisel.
Reading through the book feels like you are sitting next to the photographer (a wonderful storyteller) as he shares story after story about where a photo was taken, on assignment or in-between, and the process he went through to get the shot. In the introduction to the book, Maisel credits his good friend with saying, “Photography is not about photography, it is about everything else.” And that he tried to talk about “everything else.” It’s immediately evident that he masterfully accomplished his goal.
Maisel doesn’t discuss camera settings, histograms, the pros and cons of hand-held shots or tripods, instead he tells readers what he was thinking or feeling as he stood, crouched, and climbed to get a specific shot. And the serendipitous moments when the light changed or a person walked into a scene.
Maisel’s photos span over many decades and his comments about each image give credence to showing up, being patient, looking at the world around us and finding inspiration in both the extraordinary and ordinary.
Maisel also shares images that surprised even him, in one instance a beautiful photo of Marilyn Monroe that he doesn’t remember shooting, originally rejected because of the focus, but in the edit, decided he loved it. Another time, an ice rink where the skaters were moving so fast making it hard to get a good shot that he changed his attitude on what was presented on the surface. The photo shows a stunning dark silhouette amidst an etched blue, gray, green background.
Every page is subtitled with a few carefully crafted words that sum up the teachings; e.g. “Be Aware of Changing Light”, The “Gifts Are Always There” “To Thine Own Self Be True.” (A pocket-size guide of the headings would make for a wonderful book of daily meditations for photographers!)
More than half-way through the book Maisel suggests that “Sometimes It Is the Lens.” We learn that in the past few years the photographer has significantly pared down his equipment and now walks around with one camera and one lens–a Nikon D3 with a 28-300mm zoom lens.
Maisel advises photographers to look to art for inspiration, “its been around longer” than photography. While that may be true, readers won’t be able to help being in awe of the color, light and gestures seen throughout the photos in the book.
This is a book that can be read cover-to-cover, again and again. And will make for a fine coffee table book that readers and photography aficinados can open to any page where they’ll discover visual gems.