Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The House of Maisel

Jay Maisel is a master and revered among photographers.  I love to hear him talk and he is imminently quotable.  My personal favorite is "If you want to make more interesting pictures, become a more interesting person."  Many folks not in the photography community may not be familiar with him.  His best known image is from the cover of the Miles Davis album "Kind of Blue".

Jay bought the Germania Bank Building in 1966 for $102,000 when the neighborhood around190 Bowery was in decline.  It has been his studio and home ever since.  New York Magazine said this "maybe the greatest real-estate coup of all time" as the building was estimated to be worth over $30 million in 2008.  Built in 1898, the 35,000 square foot building has six floors and 72 rooms.  Over the years he has rented space to other artists including Roy Lichtenstein.

Last week, I had to be in New York and one of my commitments was to attend a dinner at Sammy's Roumanian Steak House.  I won't get into that here, let's just say they had Kettle One frozen in blocks of ice, a schmaltzy lounge act and a waiter fond of the F word.  As I walked the two miles from my West Village hotel to the restaurant, I was following the directions on my cell phone and turned right from Bleecker Street onto Bowery.  The building in front of me said it was 350 Bowery and my wheels started turning.  I knew that Jay Maisel's studio wasn't far.  A quick google search comfirmed 190 Bowery as the address.

Two blocks later I stood in front of the house of Maisel.  A temple to color, form and the secret ingredient to all good photographs that Jay calls "gesture".  Some day I'll get inside this building and see the treasures it holds.  In a video tour I've seen, Maisel shows off a large room dedicated to things he's found on the streets... neatly organized by shape... circles, squares, etc.  There is also a gallery space.  He holds four day workshops here about three times a year.  Someday when I have an extra $5,000, I'll learn from the master.

In the meantime, I have this photo of his amazing building.  I didn't have my DSLR with me on this dinner outing and it was very dark when I made the image but the best camera is the one you've got and my iPhone never disappoints.

Here are a couple of videos that will help you understand why Jay Maisel is the man...
http://petapixel.com/2013/02/03/short-documentary-on-iconic-photographer-jay-maisel/
http://vimeo.com/4033685
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