'Jay Myself' - Movie Review

Jay Maisel is one of the world's best known photographers. He's a New Yorker through and through, and in 1966 he bought the Germania Bank Building (I don't think they mentioned the actual name in the movie, I looked it up later). The neighbourhood was scary and he bought it for $100,000 - which he couldn't afford. But he lived there for fifty years. By 2015 the neighbourhood had seriously gentrified and he sold the building for $55,000,000. This movie is - nominally - to document his moving out of the building, but inevitably it turns into much more. The movie was made by Stephen Wilkes, who spent a couple years working with Maisel when he was a beginning photographer.

Maisel is an interesting character. The first impression might be "grumpy old man," but he's intelligent and still - despite a lifetime of photography - utterly fascinated by visual imagery. He filled that 35,000 square foot building with stuff he collected over the course of 50 years. Not stuff he bought, just stuff that looked interesting that he found walking around New York. He had a room for coloured glass. He had a room for mechanical parts. And as a photographer myself, I watched in wonder as he convinced me how worth looking at this stuff was: he made it beautiful. And of course he talks - about the move, about photography.

This is a must-see for anyone in the visual arts: his visual sense will shake up anyone in the arts and make you think hard about how you compose images. If you're not into the visual arts, this may still be worth watching: he's interesting to listen to and it's an odd piece of New York history.