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Workshop at the Bank, Day Two…

Oct 14

In Seminars & Workshops at 12:03pm

So I’ve got some stuff teed up on Aperture, and Jay walks by. There’s a series of frames I shot from the same vantage point visible. He looks. “Way to go, McNally. Great variation. We’re your fucking feet nailed to the floor?”

No. Maybe just my brain. Had a tough day yesterday. Photographers. Sometimes, we are just so grandly, naively stupid. We hit the streets, our freshly scrubbed faces brimming with the enthusiasm and certainty that our next great frame is just around the corner, basking in newly minted sunlight. Given our general level of brio, it is sometimes confounding and disappointing to realize that not everyone in the world has signed on to this particular march of the pixels with equal vigor, or even reluctant compliance. That a lot of folks, for instance, in NY’s Chinatown, don’t give a rat’s ass you are trying to make art out of the dead fish they are busy making a living selling. There is nothing quite as shrill at 7am as the irate voice of a 75 year old female fishmonger telling you (presumably) to get our of her damn way and that she is convinced you are a mangy, homeless son of a dog and back in the ancestral village of her youth, she would find an entirely different, more practical use for you.

Shooting on the street. It’s sometimes like telling a joke that no one gets. Awkward, in a word. Why isn’t anyone laughing? Con Ed workers dress in orange safety jackets and blue helmets that look great in early light just for photographic purposes, don’t they? So why did they eye me suspiciously and send over the supervisor to question me?

Sigh. The brisk pace of our discovery process becomes a trudge, and the brioche french toast in that hip eatery on the corner of Prince and Lafayette is sounding mighty good. Shelter from the storm. Coffee.

But then you step back out into sunlight, and the camera comes up to your eye automatically. Like breathing, it is something you must do.


More tk….

Treasa says:

on October 14, 2009 at 12:07 pm

That’s one hell of a photograph.

And the commentary about the workshop so far really makes me want to try one…so tempting.

Kevin Blackburn says:

on October 14, 2009 at 12:09 pm

I have that feeling a lot like my brain is permanently stuck in neutral with cement on my feet

jussi says:

on October 14, 2009 at 12:10 pm

I really enjoy this series of posts… Different, very straight up view of the learning process. Jay seems like a charictor, no wonder he is often quoted or refered to in Joes books..

John Sturr says:

on October 14, 2009 at 12:16 pm

Great stuff — you are on a roll with your writing — thanks. JSturr

John Scherer says:

on October 14, 2009 at 12:29 pm

Hey Joe cool shot – kinda looks like the guy is taking a piss – with his back to the camera and the steam… come on, you see it… don’t you..

Radomír Inek says:

on October 14, 2009 at 12:36 pm

Great photograph Mr. Mcnally:-) I love this series of posts too…especialy the quotes of Jay Maisel. Shooting on the street is cool but it seems to me that some time before it must have been easier…now you can’t photograph anything you want or anybody you want… Greetings from Czech Republic, Europe:-)

Ben says:

on October 14, 2009 at 12:47 pm

You’ll be in Traverse City MI in a couple days… my hometown, sorry I wont be able to make it this time but if you have any questions let me know. It’s been in the 30’s and 40’s for a couple of days and probably the rest of the week so there should be some fall colors. Good luck and let us know how it goes.

Terry F says:

on October 14, 2009 at 1:08 pm

I really appreciate the reality of a master teacher and photographer (Joe) taking the time to sit at another master’s table (Jay) for the purpose of learning! It is a wonderful thing to remain teachable. Way to go – Joe!!!

joker400 says:

on October 14, 2009 at 1:10 pm

ooh, man it is really seems good

Kay10 says:

on October 14, 2009 at 1:53 pm

Thanks for sharing the wise, useful, colorful teachings of J.M. Generous to include the rest of us.

Larry Eiss says:

on October 14, 2009 at 3:52 pm

Fascinating frame. Scary workshop. You guys are SO out of my league. I am really energized by it. Thanks, Joe.

Stacey Vaeth says:

on October 14, 2009 at 4:20 pm

I’ve never responded to a blog post, but this one is right on in so many ways. Making art of the dead fish someone is trying to sell to make a living…the awkwardness flooding in as soon as you realize your heart was leaping at the light glinting off of, what, a trash can in early morning light? …so true. Thanks joe. Love the reflections.

Katrin says:

on October 14, 2009 at 4:20 pm

Try looking more like a tourist – no questions will be asked 😉

Peter says:

on October 14, 2009 at 4:25 pm

These last couple of posts are really good. I was talking to a motorcycle racer yesterday who commented on how boring the photos were that the professionals took of him, all from the same spot, every race the same. Yes as photographers it is easy to get safe but that equals boring. What are we doing to delight, excite and inspire our audience. Peter Senge made a comment that “today’s problems are a result of yesterday’s solutions” and I believe that is true of photography. The solution we find today will become our nemesis tomorrow as we start to overuse it. Love your work, keep pushing those boundaries and being honest.

Will says:

on October 14, 2009 at 7:34 pm

Joe, these last post seem so organic and grassroots bro. The bareness and nakedness of all the realness is inspiring. Keep it official, like a ref’s whistle.

Jamie Willmott says:

on October 14, 2009 at 8:13 pm

Cracking shot Joe.

Adrian John says:

on October 14, 2009 at 9:17 pm

Excellent writing Joe. Can’t wait for your next book. Keep sharing.

Mark says:

on October 14, 2009 at 10:14 pm


As one of my mentors, it is really humbling to see you operate outside of your “comfort zone” and describe emotions/challenges that I find so familiar. Like you, when ready to photograph, I want to reach for a speedlight and work it into my ambient light. Classic Jay should be a feature in your next book or a separate book. Jay is PRICELESS and I don’t even know who he is. . . .

Kevin Glackmeyer says:

on October 14, 2009 at 10:57 pm

Could you reproduce the shadow effect on steam/smoke under studio conditions? I think so, and w/o a smartass New Yorker over your shoulder…as great as Jay is and has been for many many decades, i’m from Jersey I can call him that.

george says:

on October 14, 2009 at 11:37 pm

Must be a New York thing. Robert Farber once called my photos “fucked up”, a very honest statement of his opinion. Most other instructors seem to be a little PC, you can tell they want to say what they see but tend to limit themselves to a more pedantic description of what the technical errors are.

Wife says I can take Meisel’s course when i sell enough to pay for it……not likely, unfortunately.

Marvin says:

on October 15, 2009 at 7:28 am


Very nice picture indeed.

I was kinda amused at this “The Master Became The Student” stuff that you Joe is engaged at, at the fact that one of the best (if not THE best) photographer I look up to is up there, learning at a workshop he’s so used to conduct himself, going down from the pedestal he is usually perched on, and become mortal (photographically) like us.

You are truly inspiring whether you’re at the helm or otherwise.

Keep the good photos and posts coming.


Barbara Louise says:

on October 15, 2009 at 7:31 am

Ahhh to wake up at 5am, get ready for a job I was not destined to do, knowing in the back of my head that someday my widdle little photography business may be more then speck on my lens… someday… but then I get discouraged because I’m to damn shy to get my face out there…. and then I read your latest blog post and inspiration engulfs me once again. I must get out and shoot more. 3 times a week just is not enough…

I’m soooo happy you have this blog… I quote you from time to time on my facebook… trying to keep myself motivated all day…

Keep up the great work, and the witty blog posts… :-)

mk says:

on October 15, 2009 at 8:01 am


I photograph job sites for a living. I took a 10 hr OSHA safety course, have the card in my wallet, I wear a hardhat, a safety vest, steel toe boots, safety glasses, the works!… and I STILL get shit from the people on site!

“Who you wit’?”

“Hey bud! Whachoo takin’ pitchers of?”

I am on these sites at least once every month (and often more than that) yet, people see the camera and like Pavlov’s mutts they go batshit insane! What is the deal?

mk says:

on October 15, 2009 at 8:02 am

And, oh yeah, this workshop series you’re narrating is wonderful.


Bobbi Lane says:

on October 15, 2009 at 8:50 am

Joe, I admire your courage to take the workshop with Jay. As a professional instructor, it’s very challenging and a bit scary to be critiqued by another, especially one who is a friend, mentor and giant in the field. (I mean that in both the physical and artistic sense!) It must be humbling, a bit scary, and again, courageous. Impressive on many levels; to be vulnerable, tested and pushed. Congratulations! I look forward to more postings. Hi to Jay, too.

Kristian Rasmussen says:

on October 15, 2009 at 10:38 am

Somehow I find it delightful to know that even you takes a workshop now and again. Finding new inspiration. This one certainly seem to give you a fight to the teeth.

Cool considerations. Hope you have a brilliant workshop :-)

Cindy Farr-Weinfeld says:

on October 15, 2009 at 11:28 am

Wow! I love that shot, Joe. But I’m out of my comfort level just LISTENING to what the workshop is like. It’s very brave of you to go out on a limb like this, and especially to tell us how it’s going and what happens to you each day! Good luck and hope it’s a life-changing (positively) experience for you! Cindy

randy baran says:

on October 15, 2009 at 12:50 pm

i agree, it’s a great shot. and it’s great to have a colleague like maisel to shake you up (goes for all). but is anybody answering the question, how do we eat?

you summed it up a couple of weeks back when you said editors expect you to drop your photos off in a goodwill box.

when your inner core lives for the images, home depot/photog doesn’t cut it. and even they’re not hiring old guys.

just blowing off steam but where and how do we market successfully, consistently in this not-so-brave new world?

Mike Neale says:

on October 15, 2009 at 2:51 pm

“Feel the Force, Joe,…feel the Force!”.

Fight the ol’ PJ tendencies, where it take the Tog 5 paragraphs to explain their image,…let the image scream the story.

Creative comp,…good eye!,…u can do better,…the Force, Joe,…feel the Force”,….;-)

Luv ya baby, luv ya!…;-))

Myron says:

on October 15, 2009 at 3:33 pm

So Homeland InSecurity wondering why Con Ed is so photogenic and why is this hoard of digital poppers seem both so happy and so determined on the streets of NYC.

On the Move Photogs, no lights, no tripod, no models, and no nails or glue on the shoes.

Why is it that you can’t be creative doing the same old thing over and over again and again?

What’s the story behind the Blueness on top? Could it be shot tungsten with a CTO flash gel?

Susan says:

on October 15, 2009 at 4:21 pm

Great shot, Joe…the workshop sounds both intimidating, yet invigorating…more power to you!

Uwe Noelke says:

on October 18, 2009 at 2:47 pm

Amazing, how you used this moment of light. Very good. I like the mod in the image.

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