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Thread: Vivian Maier in NYC until Jan 28th 2012.

  1. #21
    Dan Wagner's Avatar
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    Thoughts on Vivian

    A few years ago on another photography forum I read numerous posts by John Maloof on the topic of Vivian Maier. At the time he was seeking advice regarding his find. He had been looking for photographs of old Chicago, and in the process came upon Vivian Maier's negatives and related items. Being in real estate, the value to him was not in their artistic merit but in their historical use. In short order Mr. Maloof realized the commercial value of his find, and proceeded to do what anyone would do -- he monetized it. After all, it was his property, and in my opinion he was free to do with it as he pleased. Why not? To my knowledge Mr. Goldstein traveled a similar road, but he had fewer negatives and related items to work with. I have no idea who possesses the best photos. As far as I know, many rolls of film have yet to be processed. After many decades, will there be recoverable images on all these rolls? Clearly, and to the benefit of his endgame, Mr. Maloof has promoted his own name adroitly.

    I think many photographers are irked by Vivian's "canonization" because they believe her personal story has advanced the prominence of her work more than the quality of her work. And while there may be truth to this, I doubt anyone could disagree with the assessment that her work is quite good. Vivian's personal story informed her work because as with all photographers her history formed her personality, and when it comes to street and other types of photography, a photographer's personality is present in their photos. How is it present? It's present in the expressions on their subject's faces, in what they choose to shoot, in how people react to them, and more.

    Gallery owner (and true friend of photography) Howard Greenburg said words to the effect that Vivian's story was of huge value to advancing interest in her work. To me, she's like Mary Poppins with a camera -- a spoonful of developer makes the... Well you get the idea. Personally, I believe Vivian was lonely. The camera gave purpose to her days off from her work as a nanny. Her Rolleiflex T was her chaperon, her plus-one, it was the proverbial book that accompanies a solitary diner in a busy restaurant filled with couples. But more importantly, her Rolleiflex was the ice-breaker between herself and the people she selected to meet and photograph. As an aside, the color work Vivian produced later in her life with 35mm IMHO is vastly inferior to what she was able to accomplish with a Rolleiflex and black and white. Subjects interact much differently with a 35mm than a TLR. The same can be said of her 8mm movie work (shown at Greenburg's gallery). I know this is all included so that we may learn more about her, but....

    Vivian has two distinct audiences -- photographers and non-photographers. For the non-photographers, Vivian has aroused interest and appreciation of photography. For photographers, she has inspired many to shoot more and create a body of work that might garner interest, and to those already doing this, it has given them hope that there might be room for more photographers at the top. I believe the attention Vivian Maier's work is receiving will be like the rising water that floats all boats, and aid the careers of other worthy photographers, of which there are so many.

    Regarding the printing of her work by traditional methods and not cropping the photos, I don't think this matters at all. In my opinion the best prints possible, by whatever means should be made from the best of her work. She has enough quality work to not necessitate the showing of inferior photos like her shot of a pigeon or the back of someone's head for example. Anyone who has shot street photos with a Rolleiflex knows that there are many times when you don't have time to compose the way you want, and that you later crop for the benefit of the photo. Therefore, there is no reason to make the full crop a religion. Of course, as Vivian is gone, it's impossible to know her intent or preference.

    Well, this is all I feel like writing at the moment.

    My inspiration for trying a Rolleiflex began with my appreciation for Richard Avedon's work.

    What I've written above was shaped by my own on-going journey with a Rolleiflex:

    http://www.blurb.com/my/book/detail/2966155

    http://www.blurb.com/my/book/detail/3218037

  2. #22

    Re: Vivian Maier in NYC until Jan 28th 2012.

    A postscript, then: I did get to see the Kasher show of Maier pictures on a later visit to NYC. Alas, I found them even less interesting than the ones I saw at Howard Greenberg. So I'm afraid my overall feeling hasn't changed.

  3. #23
    Dan Wagner's Avatar
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    Re: Vivian Maier in NYC until Jan 28th 2012.

    Quote Originally Posted by Oren Grad View Post
    A postscript, then: I did get to see the Kasher show of Maier pictures on a later visit to NYC. Alas, I found them even less interesting than the ones I saw at Howard Greenberg. So I'm afraid my overall feeling hasn't changed.
    Were you unable to find a few photos, print quality nonwithstanding, that you liked at Greenburg or Kasher? I have a copy of Vivian Maier Street Photographer, and there are quite a few excellent photos inside. Did you click on the links at the bottom of my post?

  4. #24
    bob carnie's Avatar
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    Re: Vivian Maier in NYC until Jan 28th 2012.

    One of my friends bought 40 negatives of Vivians work when they first started going on Ebay. Her goal is to make silver gelatin fibre prints of this body of work.

  5. #25

    Re: Vivian Maier in NYC until Jan 28th 2012.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dan Wagner View Post
    Were you unable to find a few photos, print quality nonwithstanding, that you liked at Greenburg or Kasher?
    This is what I said about the Greenberg show further upthread:

    Quote Originally Posted by Oren Grad View Post
    There were a few I liked, but the selection on show, at least, didn't strike me as a basis for canonization.
    Not to worry... Nobody is under any obligation to agree with me.

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