Vivian Maier

I first came across Vivian Maier via Metafilter a couple of years ago. I looked at her work again the other day and was once again overwhelmed. This woman was an absolute master of the camera. Every photo takes you into the world, into the moment as she lived it.

The man who discovered her negatives contacted MoMa and Tate Modern but, apparently, they weren’t interested. “They don’t consider the photos to be the artist’s vision if she didn’t print them.” But what if the artist was such a master of the camera, of the light, and of composition, that the artist’s vision is right there in the negative, and it wouldn’t matter if a gorilla printed it? The author of the article seems to share my opinion: "Nevertheless, the strength of the negatives is hard to deny." Of course, I haven’t seen the negatives, so I am assuming that these are being printed with minimal manipulation. Maybe, I’m wrong, and John Maloof has a lab tech with the prowess of Ansel Adams doing the prints. But I doubt it. What I see when I look at these photos is perfect composition, perfect lighting, perfect exposure in almost every case.

She spent most of her time doing street photography (at least from what has been developed. There are tens of thousands of negatives awaiting development.), but I am certain that whatever she had chosen to do with a camera would have been equally impressive.

I’m a little torn in my feelings about Vivian. On one hand, I wish she had gotten more recognition during her lifetime. On the other, I feel that if she had wanted recognition she could have gotten it, so she probably lived the life she wanted to live. Another part of me wishes she had written a book. But what she had to teach and to say is all in her photographs. I’m just glad they weren’t lost. And they came very close to being lost.


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