A world of people, places and possibilities, as viewed through the eyes and camera lenses of 49 regional photographers and one master image-maker, fills the wall space of the Fairfield Museum and History Center for IMAGES 2010, the second annual photography exhibition.

The exhibit opens to the public on Saturday and continues through June 6. It features a number of related workshops and events, including Nature Photography, Camera Basics, Kids with a Camera, and on May 27, an Evening with Jay Maisel, an award-winning, internationally renowned, Manhattan-based photographer, who is this year's special exhibitor.

"I love Jay Maisel. He just gets down to basics. He's a genius. He cuts to the chase. There's no pretense about his work," said Linda Kane Brinckhoff, of Fairfield, whose digital image titled "South American Rhea" was selected as one of the 49 finalists from the 650 photographs submitted to the juried competition by 230 professional and serious amateur photographers. Brinckhoff said Maisel is an "available light" photographer, meaning he does not use flash but utilizes the light source that is there at the time he is capturing an image.

"I love his whole spirit and approach to his own work. He has a graphic sensibility," said Kate Eisemann, of Fairfield, whose film image titled "Jack's Attitude" is among the 49 finalists, from which a grand prize winner will be chosen and announced on Saturday.

The grand prize winner will be asked to mount a solo exhibition at the Southport Galleries. A student winner will have an opportunity for a portfolio review by Westport photographer Stephen Wilkes, last year's special exhibit professional and a judge this year.

"It's really flattering and it's validating; sweet validation that I have a good eye," Eisemann said of her photo's selection for the exhibit.

To have one of her images hanging in the same show as those of Maisel is overwhelming, Eisemann said. "In the photography world he is definitely a luminary."

The second annual exhibit extended a first invitation to high school and college students, according to Michael Jehle, executive director of the Fairfield Museum and History Center. The work of 10 students is represented in the show among the black-and-white and color images. Film and digital images are included in the show in six categories: abstract, landscape, portrait, nature, architecture and photo journalism.

"What we're trying to do is provide a venue for regional photographers so they can share their work with a wider audience. There is some extraordinary work being done out there. We want this to be a venue for people who are really serious about their work and connect them with established professionals in the trade who might help to advance their careers," Jehle said.

Maisel said he tries not to give advice to other photographers, but did offer some words of wisdom: "Be your own critic." Maisel said an exhibit such as the one at the Fairfield Museum "creates a sense of community," and Jehle agrees.

"Even though [the Fairfield Museum and History Center has] been here for 106 years, we are, in many ways, a new organization and we're trying to find the best ways both to serve the community and provide opportunities for artists. History remains a big part of who we are. We are a community cultural center," Jehle said, adding the museum will continue to provide a venue and give voice "to all the ways we define ourselves as a community."

Jehle said his one regret is that there is not enough space in the museum to put on display more of the entries. He said organizers plan to expand the show next year.

Information on the exhibit and its related programs is available on the museum's website, www.fairfieldhs.org and by calling 203-259-1598.