Vivian Maier : Street Photographer Hardback
by Vivian Maier
- Format: Hardback
- Pages: 128 pages, 100
- Publisher: powerHouse Books,U.S.
- Publication Date: 08/12/2011
- Category: Individual photographers
- ISBN: 9781576875773
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Review by RobertDay
The discovery of the work of Vivian Maier took the photographic world rather by surprise, surprise that soon turned to storm. She has variously been claimed by street photographers, validating their art; by historians, who revel in these images from the 1950s and `60s; and feminists, who acclaim her work whilst debating her outward status as a woman in a traditional caring role.Matters are complicated by the woman herself; a loner who carried out her art almost in seclusion. The photographs could easily have been lost without anyone being any the wiser; their rescue, two years before she died, is little short of a miracle. Sadly, John Maloof, the discoverer and rescuer of her work, was unable to track her down before she died.Of course, the discovery of a body of work like this has caused controversy. Critics and commentators have fallen over themselves to compare her work with others' (especially Diane Arbus) and find similarities, sparking off debate over whether Maier really did work in seclusion all those years, without contact with or influence from other photographers. It is debatable whether a man could have taken these photographs: many of them are quite intimate, and makes me wonder whether a man trying to take similar pictures might have been interpreted as acting aggressively. Maier's choice of camera, a Rolleiflex twin-lens reflex, might also have helped, looking sufficiently old-fashioned to the average person so as not to constitute a threat.This book merely scratches the surface of the volume of her work - Maloof now has access to over 100,000 negatives, and he also acquired hundreds of reels of undeveloped film, as well as 8mm movie footage. Some of the photographs are fascinating glimpses into other lives of people who have left even less mark on the world than Maier did; others are fascinating views of scenes long gone; still others are interesting or intriguing exercises in pattern, shape and form. Only a few of the photographs in this book have been widely seen before.There's a fascinating fact about Maier's photography; just as she seems to have worked in a vacuum, insulated from other professional photographers, so the fact of her recent discovery means that other photographers worked in ignorance of her work. I was struck again and again in looking through this book of the similarity between her work and the city sequences in Godfrey Reggio's acclaimed documentary film 'Koyaanisqatsi', made in the late 1970s. My mind's ear kept inserting the soundtrack from 'Kotyaanisqatsi' as I viewed certain street scenes, or Maier's pictures of building sites, building demolitions and street people.In short: an important book of important photographs by an important photographer.