The Master Never Stops Being a Student
by Nick Devlin
The "Plus" in PhototoPlus
On Saturday, Michael posted a catchy little video and accompanying article bemoaning the banality of this year's PhotoPlus Expo in New York City. I attended the show with him, and can't disagree that this was a slow year for new bling. But in a corridor of meeting rooms below the gear-porn, the art of photography was alive and well in the lectures and presentations being given by a variety of the who's-who of the photographic establishment.
For me,the undoubted highlight of this was Greg Heisler's walk through the work in his long overdue new book, Fifty Portraits. Heisler, for those who don't recognize the name, is one of the true masters of modern portraiture. David Hobby at Strobist recently called him, "perhaps the best living portraitist today." A glimpse inside 50 Portraits will quickly convice you that this is true.
Heisler is also humble, hard working, and a true disciple of the photographic art. Uniquely, he is also generous in sharing everything about the stories and techniques behind his best images. Whereas most photographers don't easily share their 'secret sauce', Heisler keeps no secrets. Ask and he will tell. Indeed, I've rarely seen a more open and giving lecture, where anything about how he worked his craft was fair game.
If you care at all about portraiture, go order the book right now.
...but the real lesson
But to take nothing from Heisler's work or presentation, the real lesson at his session was beside me, not up on the stage. There, at the front of the room, paying rapt attention throughout the three hour bladder-busting presentation, sat Jay Maisel. If the name's unfamiliar, Jay is one of the undisputed living-legends of photography. Gifted with an eye from the Gods, Jay can photograph anything better than you or I can. In short, Jay's about the last guy on earth who would need to shelp across town at 8:00am on a Friday morning to hear some other photographer talk. But there he was.
After the lecture, Jay chatted a bit but started moving for the exit. He had to go, he explained, to get in line for Mark Seliger's keynote address, which started in just a few minutes. He wanted to make sure he got a good seat. The true master never stops being a student.
There endeth the lesson.