An Evening with Jay Maisel as Jay Myself

An Evening with Jay Maisel as Jay Myself

Are you like me? Do you look for entertainment with some elements related to photography and is more than merely "behind the scenes" or "how to type" of videos? Something that provides a different insight into photography and the photographers who create world-class images? If so then perhaps, or maybe not, the documentary "Jay Myself" is for you.

The recently released documentary by Stephen Wilkes is of legendary photographer (and one of my favorites) Jay Maisel. If you are not familiar with Jay Maisel or of his fabulous work, I suggest doing a little search to see some of it.

Maisel, now at the age of 88, has had a long career as a commercial photographer shooting covers for Sports Illustrated swimsuit covers, New York Magazine, and the Miles Davis Kind of Blue album as a few examples. Besides being a terrific photographer, Maisel is also known for his fascination and collection of objects, more on that in a moment. He is also known for his home in a six-floor former bank building in New York City's Bowery neighborhood, and his hold nothing back way of speaking. This last aspect is something that I find enjoyable about Maisel and why I traveled two hours to NYC to view the documentary. The question and answer session with Maisel and Wilkes following the film was another reason to go to NYC.  

The film Jay Myself focuses on the period when Maisel had decided to sell his 35,000 square foot home, commonly referred to as The Bank. This provides the foundation for the film's reflection on Maisel's long career and his love of objects. Most people would see to his collection of objects as junk; however, objects is probably the best way to describe his collection. Throughout the movie, Maisel is confronted with the challenge of which objects to keep and which objects must be thrown out. I could relate to his trial as I feel the same way went selecting and editing my photographs. 

Maisel's fascination with objects and his explanations of why he finds a particular item interesting provides an insight into his long photography career and the images he created. Maisel isn't just interested in creating an image, he is interested in the subject and capturing them in an image; it's his way of collecting that subject. His images are to the subject as The Bank is to the objects he collects. His images are a storage method for subjects that he can't physically collect at The Bank. This is what makes the images intriguing and why I find myself studying his images and not merely scanning by. The focus is on the subject; on what makes that particular subject exciting and worth capturing. To me, this is something that is being lost in photography today, and as photographers like Maisel move towards the end of their careers, I worry that this approach will be lost.

Jay Myself is a film, the more I think about it, the more I learn about Maisel, photography, and seeing the world around us.

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3 Comments

I can't overstate how much Jay Maisel impacted my career. He was the first photographer to really demonstrate to me the "Art of Seeing." The simple act of wandering around the streets with a sense of awe and awareness was the best teacher. He found stunning images from scenes that everyone else was walking by without notice. In fact someone even assigned the term "jaywalking" to describe his street photography.

What a talent! I'm happy to see he's still with us.

About 9 or so years ago, I had the opportunity to see Jay speak at a Nikon sponsored seminar. I think it was at Adorama. I've been to many or these. Many were gear focused or technical focused. Jay was neither and was hands down the best photography seminar I have ever attended. Absolutely AMAZING is an understatement.
I did see "Jay Myself" about 3 weeks ago. It didn't disappoint

Jay is truly one of the greatest living photographers, in my opinion. He takes street photography to a different level proving you don’t need an expensive rangefinder with a 35mm or 50mm lens. He will use a 70-300 lens on the street and the images are breathtaking. His idea of gesture is spot on. He really captures moments that others do not. He is a national treasure!