Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Vivian Maier

You may have heard some of the news that's been circulating about the photography by this woman who died in 2009. She worked as a nanny in Chicago, taking photographs in the street in her spare time. Her work was unearthed by John Maloof, who came across her negatives in a suitcase in a sale. He tracked down a further hoard, including unprocessed rolls of film, and has spent the last four years organising the photographs.

Eighty photographs can be seen at the Hilaneh von Kories Gallery in Hamburg, in a show titled 'Twinkle twinkle little star'.

There are obvious visual echoes of the work of Dianne Arbus amongst others, but it's refreshing to see work of 'unknown' street photographers. Part of the appeal may be in the angle of view, using a camera where the photographer looks down into the viewfinder, resulting in photographs that are taken from below the eye level of the subject. This is seldom seen today, due in part to the use of medium format cameras with eye level viewfinders.

Street photography, to some extent, has become more difficult to practice, especially if you point a camera at people. For some reason there appears to be more resistance to being photographed in public. Heaven help you if (especially if you are male)you point your camera at a child in the street, however innocent your intention may be. People used to joke about you being from the 'tax office' but now it's almost as if photographing people in public is sinister. How nice it would be to return to the days when it was not so, but the genie seems to be so far out of the bottle that it's unlikely. Even the Met police have tried to curtail photography in some areas, as have the National Trust. Anyone who has pulled out a camera in a shopping precinct will know that it's a red rag to the little men of the peaked cap brigade.

So it's great to see these wonderful photographs from a time when street photography wasn't seen as being harmful.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for introducing Vivian Maier's work to us. Lovely examples.
    Regarding the reluctance of people today being photographed. Perhaps it's due to the proliferation of publication that now we've become self-conscious. We don't look perfect like people in news/gossip magazines. I've recently found myself shying away from cameras pointed my way. Yet have recently begun to surreptitiously photograph gardeners at work in gardens or at gatherings, to get away from posed, unnatural looks.
    Your work is very intriguing, too. Glad John Grimshaw mentioned you and your work.