This film focuses on five months in the life of famed photographer Jay Maisel as he moves from his home of 48 years. Director Stephen Wilkes captures Maisel as he shifts through his life’s work and treasures deciding what must be kept and what can be let go of. Along the way viewers see not only his art, but also his soul.
Jay Maisel began his career in the 1950’s and has photographed everything from Sports Illustrated swimsuit covers to poverty-stricken ghettos. His best work are the pictures that just happened – such as a girl in the park with the sun glittering off a moving bike tire creating a halo effect around her head.
Maisel brought a 6-story building in 1967. There he created his art, raised a family, and became something of a hoarder. He used 5 of the buildings 6 floors to house objects he collected. But his hoarding was genius as he saw the incredible in the mundane.
After half a century he is forced to move because he can no longer afford the 100-year-old building’s $300,000 a year maintenance costs. He sold it for $55 million, the largest real estate transaction in New York City history.
Maisel does not speak much about the $55 million; instead his concerns are of shifting through his life. Wilkes captured on film a man reckoning with life, age and unwanted change.
Maisel has a few lessons to teach us. The viewer doesn’t have to go far to find beauty. It is in the mundane that is all around us. Once we learn to see through his lens, we will never look at the world the same again.