Legendary photographer Jay Maisel has had the privilege of living in a former six-story bank in New York City for over 50 years. His home was stuffed to the brim with his photos, negatives, sculptures, trinkets and baubles collected over that time frame. “Jay Myself” chronicles Maisel’s moving out.
Selling the bank for $55 million, Maisel has to pack up five decades worth of collection, seen through the eyes of his former protégé Stephen Wilkes, who has returned to document the process.
The film is a view into the abstract mind of one of the 20th century’s preeminent photographers. “To be able to see, you have to look,” Maisel says. “In order to look you have to want to look.”
Beyond the photos are seemingly random objects, serving no apparent purpose, from Styrofoam box inserts to screws that can only be used for one antiquated type of machinery. Maisel himself admits he feels a delight in the “perception and enjoyment of objects.”
The narrative itself is interspersed with commentary from his family, friends and contemporaries in the world of photography, marveling at his work, but also expressions of his true love of all things art and glimpses of his incredible and unique personality.
While Maisel himself is never one to break from his fun-loving, joking attitude, it becomes quickly apparent how important the odds and ends, and the space itself are to him.
In particular, one scene captures him arguing with movers over what is and is not garbage, as they joke about his tendency to throw away what’s useful and keep what seems to be trash.
The film really is a love story of the oddities that accompany artistic genius. ■