I fell in love today. With Vivian Maier. Goes like this, I have since I can remember been very interested in images. I remember the bookshelf in my childhood home filled with encyclopedias and mass-produced novels as well as books with photographs. Not necessary dedicated photo books but never the less filled with images. My father had a hidden passion for photography, or should I say photographing what his family did. Something I realized after he passed away and I took over his old 35mm Contax camera with 2 lenses. He had even made his own camera bag out of an old army shoulder bag, a block of mattress-like sponge cut out to hold his gear in a prefect fit, very DIY. The images he took were always of us kids and family related stuff. Never saw him ponder over to the “wild side” and shoot stuff that I have come to love. Lines, compositions of shades and contrast, objects relating to whatever seemingly weird topic, daily “unseen” scenes, stuff that fill our daily life yet not viewed as such for some reason. I think my dad did not know, or didn’t care, that there were endless possibilities waiting out there, for some reason he never shot anything else than his family and frames related to it, fair enough. I have during the years come to be the owner of a pretty large collection of photography books. Well worth spent money if you ask me. I’ve got inspiration and mental support from these volumes as you might have read in earlier posts on this blog. I have no direct peers and what I know is what I have learned from reading up on it, in the beginning “How-To” books and manuals, and of course studying the both well known names as well as I guess a few of the less so famous. Chinese photographer Lu Yuan Min, Salgado, Steve McCurry, Martin Parr, Annie Leibovitz, David Hillard, Henri Cartier-Bresson and Elliot Erwitt to name a few, they all have in a way or another helped shape and steered me in direction to the photographer I am now. Don’t know if I on the contrary have influenced anyone with my work, can’t say I really care if or not. Photography has become a very personal thing and I don’t really like to talk about it, not on an academic level anyway, it is what it is, what you make of it. Simplicity always conquer in the end, like to keep it that way thanks. Having done studio photography, portrait, location photography professionally in the past I can now humbly admit that my heart always has been and will be even more so due to Vivian (and Lu Yuanmin) as a street photographer. Again, not too much to it. I found Vivian Maier’s photo book online while searching for my next inspirational investment and even if my wish list is long I opt for only one (she found me) and instantly fell in love with her and her work. Sound absurd but her personal story and photography is one that has been occupying my mind ever since. I like the way she looks even. First of all, she was an amateur, for whatever that term has come to mean? Possibly completely unaware of what was going on around her in the pro photographic world at the time, no peers. Not regarding her images special and worthy of anything than being saved for her eyes only. She died with her treasure hidden and her story untold until one day being found (by John Maloof, thank you!) and brought to the light it deserves so we, the aspiring pros and peer amateurs can get a glimpse on how a genius mind see the world around her. To me, a clear and clean mind with no strings attached and no pressure of being more that what one really is. As any pro photographer may have come to terms with, the business and the passion is not easily mixed if to sustain a high level. Come to think about it, I rather be a happy amateur than a stressed out and hollow “pro shooter”. Who knows what was going on in her mind as she prowled the streets of New York City, Chicago and travels abroad? Her images speak for themselves and for a very long time I haven’t had anyone to relate to, now I do.
Vivian Maier – Street Photographer
Edited by John Maloof
Foreword by Geoff Dyer
A good street photographer must be possessed of many talents: an eye for details, light, and composition; impeccable timing; a populist or humanitarian outlook; and a tireless ability to constantly shoot, shoot, shoot and never miss a moment. It is hard enough to find these qualities in trained photographers with the benefit of schooling and mentors and a community of fellow artists and aficionados supporting and rewarding their efforts. It is incredibly rare to find it in someone with no formal training and no network of peers.
Yet Vivian Maier is all of these things, a professional nanny, who from the 1950s until the 1990s took over 100.000 photographs worldwide – from France to New York City to Chicago and dozen other countries – and yet showed the result to no one. The photos are amazing both from the breadth of the work and for the high quality of the humorous, moving, beautiful, and raw images of all facets of city life America’s post-war golden age.
It wasn’t till local historian John Maloof purchased a box of Maier’s negatives from a Chicago auction house and began collecting and championing her marvelous work just a few years ago that any of it saw the light of day. Presented here for the first time in print, Vivian Maier: Street Photographer collects the best of her incredible, unseen body of work.