Albert Maysles dies, aged 88

Grey Gardens documentarian died from 'natural causes'.

by Amber Wilkinson

Documentarian Albert Maysles in support of documentary White Gold in 2013
Documentarian Albert Maysles in support of documentary White Gold in 2013 Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze
Documentary pioneer Albert Maysles has died at the age of 88.

The New York-based filmmaker is best known for the ground-breaking fly-on-the-wall documentaries he made with his brother David (who passed away in 1987), including Grey Gardens and Salesman.

The director - whose Harlem-based Maysles Documentary Center and Cinema continues to promote up-and-coming directors and who was frequently seen at film events in the city - became famous with his sibling for their "direct cinema" technique, which favoured intimate observation over more formal interview-style documentary techniques.

Grey Gardens, which profiled the reclusive socialites Edith Bouvier and her daughter Edith Bouvier Beale, went on form the basis of the Broadway show of the same name, while the Maysles' profile of the Rolling Stones' American tour Gimme Shelter also earned them worldwide attention. Whether he was dealing with bible salesmen or Marlon Brando and Truman Capote (who featured in his short films) he let the reality of their lives speak for itself. During his life he won a string of accolades, including a DOC NYC lifetime achievement award last year.

On his website, he once wrote: "As a documentarian I happily place my fate and faith in reality. It is my caretaker, the provider of subjects, themes, experiences - all endowed with the power of truth and the romance of discovery. And the closer I adhere to reality, the more honest and authentic my tales. After all, knowledge of the real world is exactly what we need to better understand and therefore possibly to love one another. It's my way of making the world a better place."

Maysles, who a spokesman said died of "natural causes" on Thursday, is survived by his wife Gillian Walker and children Philip, Sara, Rebekah and Auralice.

Filmmakers shared their tributes to him here.

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