Vivian Maier – street photographer

by Chris Bertram on January 8, 2011

I’m almost reluctant to add to the hype, but the story is so unusual, and the pictures so good, that I think I’ll overcome that. In brief, then: Chicago is about to see the first exhibition of the photography of Vivian Maier, a recently-deceased, partly-French, nanny who seems to have neither sought nor received any exposure or recognition in her lifetime. Thousands of negatives were then bought by a real-estate agent at a flea market. Astonished at what he found, he’s now promoting her work, making a documentary film, putting a book together and so on. Well, I know, it all sounds too good to be true. But the pictures (at least the ones we’ve seen) are superb. I have some qualms about the ethics of developing unprocessed rolls of a photographer’s work. (Famously, Garry Winogrand had tons of these.) This is for the simple reason that the photographer may just have know that that roll contained crap. Unprinted negatives get you a bit closer to the finished article, but there too, there’s the matter of editing, selection, etc. So the world will never see the work the Maier would have chosen to represent herself, if she’d have wanted exhibiting at all. But, still, the pictures are wonderful.

Links: “New York Times”: (great slideshow – view it full screen); Blog post at “The Operable Window”: (with link to TV news item); Chicago “exhibition”: details; John Maloof’s “site”: (he’s the real-estate agent); “details of the documentary film”: (and scroll down for many more links).