Gesture – and more beach scenes

Leo Carrillo Beach, 2015: light, gesture, and color

At the next Thousand Oaks Photo Group meeting, I will be speaking on the use of gesture in photography to provide background and inspiration for their September Digital Composition Challenge.

Gesture by Jay Maisel

“the expression that is at the very heart of everything we shoot”

“not just the determined look on a face; it’s not just the grace of a dancer or athlete…It exists in a leaf, a tree, and a forest. It reveals the complicated veins of the leaf, the delta-like branches of the tree, and when seen from the air, the beautiful texture of the forest. Gesture gives you a visual story of the essence of what you are looking at.”

Jay Maisel

Light, Gesture, Color – by Jay Maisel

Jay Maisel on the Importance of “Gesture” in Photography from PDNOnline on Vimeo.

Gesture is used to tell story and convey emotion. It can be the explicit and demonstrative motion of a high-jumper, or the subtle quality of a weathered rock. Our role as a photographer is to find just the right light, composition, and moment to capture gesture  and to tell a deeper narrative.


In this simple beach scene image, the landscape sets the stage for three little vignettes. Looking at the overall scene, one can observe the gesture of the landscape: the sky with its pleasant light clouds, the choppy, but fairly calm, waters of the Pacific, and the glare of the late afternoon sun. Examining the vignettes, presented mostly in silhouette making the gesture even more apparent, we see two children exploring the water, a lone swimmer, and a woman interacting with a child. In our minds we create a story. Are the children supporting each other, or is the boy taunting her, telling her she is a scaredy-cat for being afraid of such a small little wave? Is the lone swimmer escaping her company on the shore, or is she waiting for a companion to join her? Is the woman directing her child to something on the beach, or is she scolding her? We don’t know the true story from this picture alone, but the image provides the gestures, the clues, in order that we can stop and linger and imagine a story of our own.

In my continuing beach project, last week I explored, through the use of gesture, the interactions of the great Pacific with the beach goers at Leo Carrillo Beach.




A Street Photography Manifesto Cover JPGLife Happens in COLOR –
A Street Photography Manifesto is available from my Blurb bookstore.

Buy it here

I believe in the use of photography to tell candid stories that document the human condition in order to bring people together with understanding and acceptance.

These are the principles that guide my photography:

  • Create compelling stories: Say something, ask questions.
  • Life happens in COLOR: Color carries emotional content.
  • Create visual poems: Composition matters.
  • Composition is additive: Use a lot of adjectives.
  • Connect the dots: Capture the scene as the subject.
  • Create short stories: Tell a story through time.
  • Travel: Spread a worldview of understanding and acceptance.
  • Take chances: An image is more than the sum of its pixels.
  • Follow the National Press Photographer Association’s Code of Ethics.

In this book I explain my manifesto, provide examples, and include a chapter on street photography technique.


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