You might remember the first time we talked about Jay Maisel's house, one of the more famous buildings in Manhattan.
First, Jay: he was one of the top advertising photographers in America in the '70s and '80s and into the '90s. Since then he's been revealed as an actual lover of photography as well, having continued to do personal work and teaching, and publishing books such as Light, Gesture, and Color and It's Not About the F-Stop (both of which are good and worth reading).
That first comment wasn't intended to be demeaning; it's just that lots of photographers who made as much money as Jay did are mainly interested in making money, not necessarily in photography. A normal person can only do so much. Jay had enough energy, not to mention the skill and talent, for both.
The Germania Bank building at the corner of Bowery and Spring, a cornerstone of Manhattan's former Kleindeutschland ("Little Germany"), in about 1975. Jay Maisel already owned it at that time. Photo by Edmund V. Gillon, courtesy Museum of the City of New York.
Jay's famous "house": he bought 190 Bowery, the former Germania Bank building, for $102,000 in 1966, when the area was a dreadful slum. He rented parts of it for a while but eventually just lived in it, filling it with interesting things and hanging out on the rooftop garden. Although definitely bohemian and not all fancy-rich, it was for a period the largest private residence in New York, with 72 rooms. The outside got covered with graffiti (including some by artist Keith Haring, late friend of our friend Hugh Crawford who comments here) and for years, New Yorkers assumed the building was abandoned.
Jay, meanwhile, had an indoor basketball court.
Jay is now 85, and although I once opined that he should be allowed to live forever, he apparently isn't planning for that to happen, because he recently sold 190 Bowery...to Manhattan "he's-everywhere" developer Aby Rosen. For 55 million dollars, which, you've got to admit, is a nice rate of real estate appreciation.
And he got to live there for 50 years, too.
I'm a little concerned about Jay now. He no longer has a place to live! We might have to pass the hat to help him get a place. Anyone have a 72-room bohemian hangout to rent? Maybe at his age he'd be satisfied with 40 or 50 rooms. You know, downsizing. But I digress.
[UPDATE: He's landed okay, and now has the nicest house in Brooklyn. Those photographers sure do well, don't they? Thanks to Techfan for this. —Ed.]
The News [buried lede dept.]: The point of this post is that Untapped Cities found its way inside 190 Bowery and has posted a series of picture-posts. Start here but if you're interested, be sure to follow the links for further dimensions of the story. A great story and great fun.
Finally: Here's Jay on "How to Be a Better Photographer." Note that although it's nothing pretentious at all, pretty much every word he says in this is profound. Listen to and consider every sentence and you'll take away something good.
(Thanks to Grant Williams)
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Featured Comments from:
Mark Hobson: "I was able to visit the basketball court and, more impressively, view the large display of large dye transfer prints (30x40–40x60) of his work ringing the basketball court. I gained entrance simply by knocking on that corner door.
"My next encounter with Jay was in the early '80s when I was asked to be the backup choice for doing the Corning Annual Report (10 countries around the globe picturing Corning products in real world use). They wanted Jay but weren't sure they could afford his fee. When told of the project budget, Jay wouldn't even send his portfolio because the project budget number (US$60,000 in early '80s dollars!) was not even in the same neighborhood as his fee would be.
"Next month I have been invited to accompany a good friend and fellow photographer and close friend of Jay for a visit to his new digs. Looking forward to it."
Mike replies: I heard a story from a guy who lost a job to Jay. It was for a series of brochures for a cruise line. My friend was sure he would get the job because his fee, although high, was much lower than Jay's. But they hired Jay. When asked for an explanation, the agency person said, "I had to be able to tell the client that we hired the very best."
Tom Foster: "In 2007, Luminous-Landscape published a video in 'Luminous Landscape Video Journal—Issue 17' that contains a one-hour interview of Jay Maisel by Michael Reichmann. This includes a half-hour tour of his building at 190 Bowery. A fascinating interview and video tour."