Jay Myself

In 1967, photographer Jay Maisel buys a building in New York City to use for his studio (it costs $102,000).

Now, 50 years later, he’s selling it (for $55 million).

Here’s a last look at this one of a kind photographer…and his extraordinary warehouse.

He’s filled 6 floors, 72 rooms and 30,000 square feet with almost nothing but art.

It’s currently the 10th best documentary in my list of Best Documentaries About Photographers (19 of them!)

Trailer for “Jay Myself”

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  • My Rating: 96/100
  • IMDB Rating: 7.1/10
  • Rotten Tomatoes Ratings: 88/100 (Users); 87/100 (Critics)

Review of “Jay Myself”

I loved Jay Myself, the 2019 doc directed by Stephen Wilkes.

It’s a fascinating 79 minute journey through the life and work of renowned photographer Jay Maisel.

Wilkes expertly guides us through Maisel’s unique approach to photography and his extraordinary 50-year residence at 190 Bowery in New York City.

The doc opens with Maisel facing a monumental challenge: he must vacate his massive 36,000-square-foot, 100-year-old landmark building in just 5 months.

You learn that Maisel purchased the former Germania Bank building in 1966 for a mere $25,000 down (total price was $102,000).

For over half a century, this incredible space served as his home, studio, and storage for his vast collection of objects and photographs.

Jay’s building costs $300,000 (heating, taxes, etc) a year to maintain.

Through intimate interviews with Maisel, his family, and friends like photographer Stephen Shore, you gain deep insight into his creative process.

Maisel’s daughter Amanda shares vivid memories of growing up in this extraordinary space, which had 72 rooms across 6 floors.

But now he’s going to sell the building (for $55 million) — he’s gotta downsize.

Wilkes captures the daunting task of packing up decades of memories and artwork.

Jay estimates it’ll take 35 truckloads to remove his stuff.. The cost of the move will be $200,000 “if I’m lucky”, Jay says

One room has a basketball court.

He has one room full of nothing but circles.

There are over 5,000 translucent color slides.

The doc takes a journey through the gems inside the building.

He’s got half a million negatives.

And then there’s Maisel’s countless antiques and curiosities from his travels.

The doc follows Maisel as he takes to the streets of New York City with his camera.

He captures vibrant images of everyday moments that showcase his distinct visual style.

You witness Maisel’s unique eye for color, light, and composition. His photographs, such as “New York City, 1955” and “Coney Island, 1957,” have become iconic images of the city.

Jay shot The Making of the Sports Illustrated Magazine Swimsuit Issue 1992.

As the move draws near, emotions run high.

Maisel reflects on his life’s work and the profound significance of the building that has been his sanctuary for so long.

Throughout the doc, you are treated to a wealth of historical photographs and footage.

Wilkes includes images from Maisel’s early days as a student at Cooper Union and Yale University (he studied under renowned graphic designer Paul Rand_.

You also learn about Maisel’s influential role in the art world. He taught at the School of Visual Arts for over 40 years.

He mentored countless photographers, including Joel Meyerowitz and Duane Michals.

The film touches on Maisel’s commercial work, which included shoots for clients like GE, Volkswagen, and Coca-Cola.

His ability to bring his unique artistic vision to commercial projects set him apart in the industry.

Wilkes also delves into Maisel’s personal life, introducing us to his wife Linda and their daughter Amanda.

Their insights paint a picture of a man who is as devoted to his family as he is to his art.

As the final moving day approaches, you feel the weight of Maisel’s decision to leave 190 Bowery. The building, which once housed artists like Roy Lichtenstein and Jasper Johns, is a character in itself.

In a particularly poignant scene, Maisel takes one last photograph of his empty studio.

The barren walls and vacant spaces evoke a deep sense of nostalgia and mark the end of an era.

The doc concludes with Maisel’s reflections on his legacy and the future of photography. He muses on the impact of digital technology and the importance of remaining true to one’s vision.

Jay Myself is a fitting tribute to a living legend.

The doc is a must-see for anyone interested in photography, New York City history, or the creative process.

In the end, Jay Myself is unque for multiple layers of value.

It’s a love letter to New York City.

It’s a meditation on the passage of time.

And it’s a tribute to the enduring spirit of an artist.

Thanks for reading!

Rob Kelly, Chief Maniac, Daily Doc