Finding Vivian Maier

I am not a street photographer. I do not see the world the same way as Cartier-Bresson, Eisenstadt, Winogrand, or Arbus. But I appreciate what these and many other photographers past and present do to record the everyday life of the world. The documentary lens work of Atget provides us with a look at Paris that not only shows the architecture but gives us a flavor of the street at the same time. The color work of Joel Meyerowitz in the streets of New York is very different from those streets photographed by Berenice Abbott. Photographers like Weegee and Diane Arbus dealt more with people than with the street itself. Conversations (arguments) can be started by simply making a comparison between street photography with and without people.

More recently the world learned about the work of a Chicago nanny named Vivian Maier. Virtually unknown until after her death in 2009, she photographed in her spare time and invested nothing in letting the world see her incredible vision. When I first viewed some of her images on a website I knew that this was the work of someone very gifted in seeing in a way that is very rare. She would venture into the less comfortable parts of the city in search of interesting people and less common circumstances. The results are remarkable and insightful.

John Maloof discovered Maier when he acquired negatives, prints, and undeveloped film in a warehouse auction. Maier was still alive at that point, but Maloof did not even know who she was until he researched the name he found on scraps of paper in the boxes shortly after her death. He acquired even more of her materials and began to catalog what he realized was something unique and worthy.

Maloof has made a film about Vivian Maier based on her images and interviews with people who knew her. That film, “Finding Vivian Maier”, will be shown at the Zoetropolis theater in Lancaster this month. Information about the theater and show times can be found at the theater website.


Author: Bryson

Architectural/Commercial/Industrial Photographer - Digital Photography and Photoshop Educator

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