Vivian Maier (New Website)


Ontario, Canada
Real Name
I enjoy her work, and I also find the whole story intriguing and fascinating. I did not know about the new site. Thanks Don.

Under the research heading there is a sub-section 'Photography'. An interesting read about her specific instructions for developing film, and the change in her shooting style.

Ray Sachs

Not too far from Philly
Real Name
you should be able to figure it out...
Thanks for that pointer Don. I'd seen some of the first images that had been shown, but nothing this comprehensive. I just spent an hour or so looking through everything on the site and I was surprised by my reaction.

There's a lot of VERY VERY good photography in those portfolios, photographs that work on every level I can imagine. Truly great art. Which, based on the little bit I'd seen before, I expected.

But there are also a lot of shots in those portfolios that I was enthralled by, but after looking at for a while, realized I didn't think they were all that superb, but were fascinating because they depicted a time and places that are so very very different than the time and places we live today (even if they're geographically the same). I was a small child in the early '60s - she did a lot of her best shooting in the 1950s (although I was surprised to see that she shot all the way through the '70s). And an awful lot of those photographs just brought back really deeply buried childhood memories of both the city and the suburbs from those days. In terms of the clothes, the cars, the people, etc. Man, people were different then. Old people looked older, dumpy people looked dumpier, ethnic looking people looked more ethnic - the great assimilation in America hadn't happened to nearly the degree in those days as it has now. Today, between exercise and diet and plastic surgery, old people don't start looking really old until they're REALLY old - back then people in their late '50s and early '60s were showing a lot of signs of wear and tear - I remember this from my own family and MAN do these photos bring that back. I'm fascinated by these images, but quite a lot of them don't really stand up to scrutiny as great photographs once you get beyond the documentary service they provide. They're all very competent and really depict the time and place and people very well. And a lot of them ARE artistically brilliant, but I was surprised at how many aren't. There was a color shot from 1975 in there that I just cracked up at and I think anyone who was around in those days would have. It was some older-ish people dressed in yellow in clothes that today would be considered totally outlandish. Back then, they were only considered sort of outlandish and so some people wore that stuff. And it was a good photograph. But if you dress those people in more nondescript clothes and less ridiculous hairstyles (oh yeah, the haircut on one guy was priceless), it probably wouldn't hold up as a particularly great photograph. Given the context (which probably didn't look nearly as silly to most people in 1975), its frickin' brilliant, but otherwise probably not.

Which makes me rethink what a lot of us shoot today. I doubt the best of the work that the best of us here are doing would have that kind of impact in another 60 years if it were all put in a time capsule (like hers essentially was), but I'm beginning to think that's largely because photographs and video are so ubiquitous today, there's SO MUCH of it and our age is so well documented that not even a really good competent set of photographs from today would likely have that kind of impact. But there are a lot of folks on these forums who do pretty competent, but not artistically brilliant, street work that might be just as interesting to look at 60 years from now if somehow the rest of the historical record got wiped out and our young kids stumbled onto it when they're in their 50s and 60s.

So I guess the lesson there is KEEP SHOOTING (assuming you love doing it, of course). You never know how it will look someday. Maybe only a bit of it is really good, but maybe a lot of it could be really cool to have around someday. Regardless, looking at her work was a great way to spend an hour. And I take encouragement from the fact that she shot most, if not all (there's one self-portrait that gives me some pause) of her work with a twin lens reflex, shot from the waist. I seem to feel more at home shooting that way than any other and now I have some famous backup! :cool:

Sorry to go on so long - I just found this stuff INCREDIBLY thought provoking...


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