Friday, January 20, 2017

The Best Street Photographer You've Never Heard Of

An unassuming French-American nanny working in Chicago and New York went essentially unnoticed during her lifetime. Since Vivian Maier's death in 2009, several individuals have discovered some 150,000 photographs she had taken, most auctioned off from her storage space as boxes of undeveloped rolls of film that had never been printed or seen, even by her. Vivian's work has since garnered critical acclaim, and the Netflix documentary 'Finding Vivian Maier' was nominated for an Oscar (I highly recommend it if you've got down time this weekend!).

Vivian's subjects primarily consist of the architecture and people of New York City, and she carried her camera everywhere she went. You'll see instantly recognizable NY landmarks such as the Public Library and the top of the Empire State Building (pictured above and below, respectively). From the elegant, rich, and famous, to the poor and down-trodden children in the slums of New York City, she captured it all. I think the main intrigue of this mysterious nanny was, why did she not show any one her incredible work during her life? Would it all have been lost or destroyed, had no one purchased those random boxes of negatives?

Vivian captured humanity in a very raw sense, and probably was able to do so because she shot everything with a Rolliflex camera which is held at the waist rather than up at your face, keeping her picture-snapping slightly more concealed than today's street photographers whose subjects are well-aware that their picture is being taken.

Audrey Hepburn at the Chicago premiere of 'My Fair Lady,' 1964

It seems however, that Vivian did have some willing subjects agree to pose for her to capture the perfect shot:

Truthfully, the work that most caught my attention was actually Vivian's own self-portraits. They are incredibly creative, what a far cry from the awful 'selfies' we see flooding social media in our day and age. Her mirror and reflection shots are perhaps my favorites. The angles and perspectives she captures are truly captivating:

What an intriguing person she was! It's no surprise that several people have dedicated much of their time researching more about Miss Vivian Maier since her death and rich discovery of this artwork that the world almost never came to know. Truthfully it's also such a strong addition to the image and archival history of the cities of New York and Chicago. To read more on this story hop to her work's official website here. Have a wonderful weekend!



Erin Burke said...

So cool! I love her perspective. Also the bathroom wallpaper in her self portrait....amazing. And is that a picture of a dog watching a cat use a litter box????

David A. said...

Wow. Those self portraits are astounding. I especially love the one with the man holding the mirror. As a photographer I find this really inspiring. Thanks!

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