Fabulous casimira! the first pic posted is almost a caricature - even though it's the real thing. not sure if that makes sense but I like the pic because it almost doesn't seem real.
I do know what you mean. I am stunned by her work. There are hundreds if not thousands (all now being sold for a pretty penny btw,isn't it always the way?...unknown while alive,she was virtually penniless and 2 of the children that she took care of as a Nanny provided for her in her later years.)of photos,each one unique in its own way,and capturing all walks of life. They also are brilliant in their representations of city life in Chicago,more in New York City,in the 1950's. I have poured over them for hours. Incredibly inspiring. Thanks for taking a look.
I checked her website and there was just an exhibit here that left in January, so I missed it.
Reading about her, I was surprised to learn that she had over 100,000 negatives and she was so private that she never showed anyone.
Reminds me a little of Emily Dickinson, who had this immense collection of amazing poems that she kept hidden until her death. She must have at least some idea of their worth, but she didn't care if they never saw the light of day.
Clearly her photographing was not about receiving any kind of notoriety or acclaim. Who knows what was going on in her mind? Her creative genius unsung may have been a cover or shield for being able to look at people through the lens of a camera and after having seen whatever she saw that was enough for her. Fascinating story but,really not that unique. The price of one 12x12 print ranges from $1,800-$5,000 USD.
I can understand reasons why she may not have tried to make a profit on her photos, but to not show them at all, not even to friends or family? That I can't wrap my mind around. I'm sure she cherished and was proud of them, and who wouldn't want to share something they were proud of, at least with an intimate friend?
I suppose the comparison to Dickinson isn't a good one, though, because Dickinson was a bona fide recluse.
Kept meaning to respond to this extremely interesting thread, then spaced it out.
When I read the OP about how the pictures had been taken by a young woman who wasn't a professional photographer, I immediately thought of Eudora Welty's pictures taken for the WPA. I knew of her Mississippi photos, but when I looked it up, I was surprised to find there was also a body of NY pictures. Looking at them made Maier's photos all the more striking. Maier's are raw in the sense that they're stripped of all sentimentality and difficult in the way that all good art is difficult, as each one, regardless of subject, carries the freight of deep human solitude.
So yes, I totally see what NYCGirl means with the comparison to Dickinson.
Well, I got us off the track with my justified! griping, but I urge you all to click on the two links I posted above.
This is a quote from the owner of the gallery in London where some of Maier's work was shown last year: ‘She had an incredible eye for composition, subject matter, atmosphere and design.’ He believes it is only a matter of time before there is a big museum show on Maier, treating her on a par with, say, Irving Penn. ‘It’s pretty advanced photography.’
Go to Kerouac's post with its two videos and you'll be firmly in agreement with that quote.
I didn't remember this thread from before and looked at the two videos. Then, wanting to forward them to my brother-in-law, who is a professional photographer, I found another video on YouTube by some guy who has a regular series of videos about art photography. While he did say that Maier was a very gifted photographer, he had two problems with the way she was being marketed, and that indeed is the word he used, marketed.
One, he thought that an artist should have editing control over his own work, and since Maier is dead and had never shown her photographs to anyone, she doesn't have that control. He claimed that some of her photographs were wonderful, but quite a few, especially the self-portraits, were not that great, and that she should have been able to show what she wanted. He claimed that she had become a fad or celebrity, and everything was just being marketed with no discrimination of what is good and what isn't.
His other criticism dealt with the two guys selling her stuff. He claims that a)photography is art and b)curating is learned, not just "hey, I got this box of negatives and photos, so I'm just selling them off".
Here is the link to the video: in case anyone wants to sit through 22 minutes.
I find that assessment a little unfair, because anybody who comes across a stock of 100,000+ photos is only going to show the ones that appear to be the best anyway and not just everything at random. Naturally, views regarding which are the best photos will vary with each and every person, and we should just be happy that we did not have to look at all of them to make a selection ourselves, just to be torn to shreds by other critics.
Very, very interesting, Bjd. Thanks for finding that & giving a précis on it, as I probably wouldn't have watched it had I come across it on my own.
I don't totally reject what he's saying, but I take issue with two things in particular: one, his not having any solid suggestion for how else the collection could have been handled; and two, the fact that he apparently made no attempt to interview either Goldstein or Maloof. As for the first thing, the point could even be made that having an unschooled curator putting the stuff out there makes the most sense, particularly in terms of giving the public access to more of it. The second thing is potentially more grave, as he alludes more than once to the fact that Maloof had his hoard at least two years before Maier died, but did nothing until he saw her obituary. Linking the obit & the pictures sounds as though Maloof knew who she was & had two years to solicit her approval and help, but started "marketing" the photos the moment he knew she was dead. Ted Forbes doesn't come right out and say this, but he might as well have.
The sheer volume of the work and the now well-publicized story behind its acquisition means that anyone viewing Maier's photos is aware that they are a hodgepodge and that the curators are simply the guys who own the work. Visiting a show by a recognized photographer curated by an official curator means that sometimes we have to work to figure out why the work chosen for display is considered good. In Maier's case, we're presented with piles of raw work by a photographer widely acknowledged as talented, but with less intervention by an official arbiter of taste. It's an interesting way to be allowed to look at art.
From what I've seen so far, I'd say one huge value of Maier's work is how it tacitly challenges one to try to take better pictures. We might not all be Vivian Maiers, but her plugging away at her craft and the fact that she got so very good at it is a great inspiration.
It's certainly obvious that Maier was extremely gifted, particularly in composition, although so many of her street pictures look as though she just happened to be at the right place at the right time. So really "street photography", in its best sense.
Like Forbes, I am less impressed by most of her self-portraits and I'm surprised that a whole book of them was published, given that she was obviously a secretive sort of person. But maybe that's more a reflection of our times (when everyone puts out so much information about themselves) than anything else.
The photos in Bixa's first link just above are a fine example of her work. Somebody did choose them though.
The street photography is all the more impressive because back then you had to actually focus on your subject manually and choose an aperture and speed setting. Doing that in the street with strangers can't have been as easy as it would be now.
Eggzackly! Not only the focusing & settings, but the pictures are usually quite well framed. I am still wondering if the two curators are interfering with the photos in any way in terms of cropping and editing.
She also seemed to have a knack of getting people to look at her in an open way, making for some great candid street portraits.
Good point about the "selfies", Bjd, and adds weight to Forbes' comments about marketing.
I think that her "plain Jane" look and style probably made just about everybody accept to be photographed, especially when she was dragging young children along with her. If I had been able to drag young children with me to the Foire du Trône, I'm pretty sure that the police never would have detained me for questioning.
I had no idea that Vivian Maier was a nanny and not known as a photographer in her day! I've seen her images, but knew nothing else about her. Thanks so much, casimira, for a fascinating thread and to everyone else for links and other info.
I was happy to see the documentary is now available via my cable company. It's a fascinating story. I found most interesting the way her photos captured people on the street by using her particular style of camera and manner of shooting.