Vivian Maier

Gubrz

O.* Gonzo's & Bentley's Dad
Location
Austin, TX
Real Name
Eliot
I have one of the books of her photos. There is some really good stuff and some ok stuff. (I think the ok is better than my good by a long ways)

What I do enjoy the most is just the fact that the photos are from another time. I don't want to see one more street photo of someone occupied with a smart phone. That has become the Antelope Canyon of street photography for me. I just don't ever need to see it again.

But in 30 years they'll all be amazing photos ;)
 

Ray Sachs

Legend
Location
Not too far from Philly
Real Name
you should be able to figure it out...
Good one Ray. I think the Vivien Maier score is more like finding a stash of unreleased tapes of Monk playing New York nightclubs in the late 40s. The Monk LPs I sell are cool and all, but they were mass produced. This guy didn't find a second set of prints from Vivien Maier, he found her entire body of work.

Even finding a really good collection is nothing that one can retire on. Also, I'm known for paying people good money for good records. This guy just stumbled upon a goldmine.....and he wasn't even looking for it!

Just kidding, as you know. The joke was the "getting rich" part as I'm well impressed you can even make a decent living selling used records. Glad you can, but I would think getting rich would take dealing in extremely rare stuff. As you say, this would be more like discovering that Monk even existed many years after the fact...

-Ray
 

Ray Sachs

Legend
Location
Not too far from Philly
Real Name
you should be able to figure it out...
I have one of the books of her photos. There is some really good stuff and some ok stuff. (I think the ok is better than my good by a long ways)

What I do enjoy the most is just the fact that the photos are from another time. I don't want to see one more street photo of someone occupied with a smart phone. That has become the Antelope Canyon of street photography for me. I just don't ever need to see it again.

I agree about "some really good stuff and some OK stuff", which is part of why I take a LOT of inspiration from her. I don't see her as a great artist for the most part, but as a great documentary photographer who gives you a really strong feel for her time and place. And gets the occasional highly artistic shot mixed in, but those are the pretty rare exceptions. And, at a much lesser level, that's sort of the way I see what I try to do with street photography. I very rarely stumble onto something vaguely artistic, but I think a lot of my photographs do document the time and place reasonably well. Even if my stuff was as good as hers it would never have the same impact because there are SO many more people doing this kind of stuff these days and many who do it really well. But still, I think if there were very few street photographers recording our era, my stuff might give you a decent feel for it if you stumbled onto it in 50 years. It's sort of like (again, at an overwhelmingly lower level!) Paul Simon taking inspiration from Elvis not because he thought he could ever do what Elvis did, but because he realized immediately he'd never be able to even approach being like Elvis, so he'd better just focus on being the best Paul Simon he could be... Well, I look at the work of Garry Winogrand and some of the other great street photography artists and know I don't have an ounce of that stuff in me. But I can look at someone like Vivien Maier and realize that just doing what I do as well as I can is a worthy enough endeavor. Because she really did the same TYPE of thing I do, just a much higher level than I manage.

As for smart phones, I get really frustrated with their abundance in the stuff I shoot as well, but they're just part of the time - you could no more completely avoid them today than you could have FOUND one 50 years ago. You just have to decide whether it's a good shot or not independently of whether there's a smart phone in it because if you immediately disqualify every shot with a smartphone in it, you knock out a large percentage of what you're gonna get out there today... And, as Eliot says, in 30 years they'll be a pretty important marker for this era - by then I'm sure we'll all have the equivalent embedded into our person or glasses or something so we won't have to occupy one of our hands with it all the time. And smartphones will be an interesting curiosity of our times, much like some of the fashions of Maier's time look to us now, but that were commonplace then...

-Ray
 

KillRamsey

Hall of Famer
Location
Hood River, OR
Real Name
Kyle
I always wonder if Maier was alive today would she be posting her images on a forum like this?

I have to assume not. She seems to have avoided any attention whatsoever on her work from outsiders. It's interesting that she was (clearly) out in public so much with 2 cameras strapped aorund her neck, and yet never ran into anyone she knew who might then inquire "oh you're into photography? How did I not know that?"
 

drd1135

Zen Snapshooter
Location
Lexington, VA
Real Name
Steve
It's also true that she had many rolls of film left undeveloped. I can understand that. The enjoyment comes with the act of shooting. Of course, developing film also costs money.
 

KillRamsey

Hall of Famer
Location
Hood River, OR
Real Name
Kyle
Yep. The way I read it, the backlog of undeveloped rolls seems to have begun to accumulate later in her life when she was sometimes homeless and then in the efficiency her former kids got for her. Seems like she loved to shoot, and loved to personally develop and print (when she had a full room and more importantly a bath that she could convert to a dark room). But to your point, the inability to develop and print did not overcome her compulsion to create in the first place. I both admire that, and am a little in awe of it. To be so consumed by something...
 

Ray Sachs

Legend
Location
Not too far from Philly
Real Name
you should be able to figure it out...
I would be a little baffled by the burning desire to shoot but without the commensurate desire to process to make the image what you saw. But then I remember what the darkroom days were like and it could be prohibitive from a time standpoint, particularly for someone in her circumstances, both when living in someone else's home and in her meager circumstances when not nanny-ing. So, at that point, I guess she took what she could get, which was just the shooting part of it. She'd have probably LOVED to have any half decent digi-cam and a laptop if such things had existed.

I've read that HCB never processed any of his film either, leaving it to other employees at the newspaper - that's absolutely mind boggling to me but I guess it improved his bottom line...

-Ray
 

Ray Sachs

Legend
Location
Not too far from Philly
Real Name
you should be able to figure it out...
I saw in this morning's paper that the new movie, "Finding Vivian Maier" was out in Philly in one of the art-houses starting today and it turned out, not surprisingly for this kind of film, it's also available on Comcast "on demand". So I "demanded" it and just finished watching it.

Kind of interesting, but more in terms of the mystery of who this woman was than in terms of the photography, of which there's not much more than fleeting glances and a few interviews with other photographers. It seems she was a deeply troubled person, a head case really, who, by today's standards, really abused some of the kids she was charged with caring for (who are interviewed at length). But who had an obsession and a really good eye to go with it. And it sounded like she did make an aborted attempt or two to have some of her work printed and maybe even shown, but she really didn't have the ability to follow through on that. She was a collector and hoarder but she never really had a place of her own to hoard stuff in, which must have been deeply frustrating. But she had trunks full of negatives and it seems she knew they were damn good. And she saved just enough cards and letters and receipts and cassette tapes and 8mm movies for the kid (Maloof) who found her stuff to piece together many of the details of her life, to find a surviving cousin in a small village in France, etc. An interesting profile and detective story about a woman who really left a hell of a legacy behind.

I'll leave the rest for those of you who plan to watch it. There's another movie out on iTunes and Amazon streaming called "The Mystery of Vivian Maier" and I have no idea how it differs from this new one - I think it was a BBC production that came out sometime last year.

One final thing. The way the guy who found her negatives realized he was onto something real was via Flickr. He'd sent samples to museums and galleries and got no encouragement but when he started posting some of her photos on Flickr, they immediately went viral and the whole thing took off from there. So, say what you will about Flickr, it's a good place to expose photography to a good sized cross section of photographers and it was instrumental in allowing this particular cream to rise to the top...

-Ray
 
Location
Milwaukee, WI USA
Real Name
Luke
I just watched the film last night. The way she treated children would have her put in prison today. I wish I hadn't seen the film. My suggestion would be to just enjoy her photos and stay unenlightened about the person behind them.
 

drd1135

Zen Snapshooter
Location
Lexington, VA
Real Name
Steve
You have to see people in the context of their time. Remember, "Spare the rod and spoil the child" was common wisdom back then. How many great photographers/artists were bigots, pedophiles, womanizers, etc.? Of course, this doesn't mean she wasn't a headcase.
 
Location
Milwaukee, WI USA
Real Name
Luke
I'll take it into consideration, but I'm not sure it was ever cool to force feed a child and then choke her until she swallows her food. She was mentally ill. It may explain her behaviour, but it doesn't make it all right. When you see those kids grown up in interviews, it is clear (to me) that they are screwed up, too. How much of it was Vivian's child rearing skills or how much can be attributed to the genes they got from their kooky mother we'll never know.
 

drd1135

Zen Snapshooter
Location
Lexington, VA
Real Name
Steve
No question it was extreme even for the time. I just try not to romanticize people I admire for their work unless I have some idea what kind of person they really were. Remember the discussion of Tichy with his homemade camera?
 

pdh

Legend
It's interesting to watch a few of the interviews with Tichy that are available on YouTube.

Helpful to be able to form an opinion based on a person's own words and behaviours rather than just on other people's opinions and behaviours - unfortunately not an opportunity availed of us with Maier
 

Archiver

Top Veteran
I saw the Maloof documentary in the cinema a few weeks ago, and found it very intriguing. There were some amusing and slightly worrisome similarities with our behaviour, although I'm nowhere near as bad as she was. There's a small pile of newpapers that I go through to clip articles, but mainly interesting stories about local history and art, unlike Vivian's preoccupation with death and violence. I collect and store receipts, but that's for tax purposes. I take photographs in abundance but usually of scenery and objects, rather than people. I certainly don't slap around kids, though! She did seem like a disturbed and obsessive person, but her body of work is incredibly impressive.

Something that struck me was how many 'keepers' she seemed to get. Being of the film era, and often shooting with a TLR, she had to make the most of every frame, especially considering her limited finances for buying and developing film.
 

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