Book Review: Vivian Maier, Street Photographer

powerHouse Books, 2011. $39.95 Foreword by Geoff Dyer. ISBN: 978-1-57687-577-3

The term 'Street photography' carries a lot of connotations, and not all of them positive. Of the countless photographers given the label 'street photographer' the worst are opportunists - vultures feeding on the sad, the filthy and the violent. But the best are visual historians, and their work is timeless.

To take just two examples of the latter, Bill Brandt and Henri Cartier-Bresson were street portraitists of the highest order, but they were also absurdists, influenced by the sense of humour, as well as the visual sensibilities of the Surrealists and Cubists who were their contemporaries. Saul Leiter, likewise, took photographs on the street, but he was so much more than 'just' a street photographer, and incorporated the influence of an energetic generation of modern artists in his post-war work.

The same is true of Vivian Maier. Currently enjoying a considerable degree of posthumous fame, little is known about her life. We do know she was a career nanny in Chicago, and we also know that she took hundreds of thousands of photographs over four decades before her death in 2009. 

There is much to be fascinated by in Maier’s life and work, but perhaps what I find most interesting is that after spending a long time looking at this book, I can find no steady thread of consistency in her style. The work in 'Street Photographer' is extraordinarily eclectic, and the collective effect is stunning - pulling off the rare trick of combining the stylistic restlessness of the amateur with the steady hand and studied gaze of experience. 

Looking through this collection, it's impossible not to be struck by the sheer variety. Here is a surreal detail - a shopkeeper’s feet peeking out from under a window display that could have come straight out of Bill Brandt’s 'The English at Home'. But here is a violent flash-lit shot of a bloodied man being dragged down a street by police, which is pure Weegee. Turn a few more pages and you’ll find an oddly unsettling beach scene, dominated by the prone figure of man either sleeping or dead, around whom sand has blown into tiny dunes.

And then there are Maier’s disturbingly intimate portraits of derelicts - all men - which are reminiscent of the visceral blackness of some of the images in Don McCullin’s post-Vietnam collection 'Homecoming'. Elsewhere though you might recognise the distant, gentlemanly gaze of Cartier-Bresson, and an amused, cock-eyed focus on street-level details - feet, legs, backsides - which recalls Elliot Erwitt. Nothing is captioned; everything is open to interpretation. 

Vivian Maier is one of those exceptionally rare things - an artist without a biography. She can’t tell us why she took these photographs, or explain what or who she was influenced by so it’s up to us to decide, if we want to. All we have to go on is the images she left behind.

As such, Maier is a gift to critics, who I have no doubt will busy themselves defining her 'value' and what her work 'means' for quite some time to come. My advice is to find this book in your local bookshop, and spend an hour or so leafing through it. 'Street Photographer' is an exhilarating collection and a welcome reminder that greatness and fame are two very different things.

'Vivian Maier, Street Photographer' is available on Amazon.com


Barnaby Britton is Reviews Editor of dpreview.com. You can see a selection of his after-hours work at www.photoinsensitive.com

Comments

Total comments: 150
12
Kenri Basar
By Kenri Basar (Apr 7, 2012)

She just made me buy my first TLR- Yashica 635 Studio TLR from ebay a while ago!!!

I chanced upon a video on her on youtube this afternoon and was so moved by her photographs that I did a fast search on her. She has moved and inspired me beyond words! I checked the blogs with her photos and did a further Google and here I am now thinking whether to buy the book or not... The book is twice more costly in India than one from Amazon... I might buy the book as well even when I am a student with hardly any money.... Sigh...

Vivian Maier; my Hero.

0 upvotes
trungthu
By trungthu (Feb 27, 2012)

I like the word "street portraitists".
Thanks.

0 upvotes
SilverLightImaging
By SilverLightImaging (Feb 24, 2012)

The problem with the naysayers is the basic fact "She raised the bar." We are all better off because she did.

0 upvotes
manlio2810
By manlio2810 (Feb 23, 2012)

Great work. Bravo.

0 upvotes
antoine minet
By antoine minet (Feb 23, 2012)

Beautiful work indeed. A great great artist.

What I find very weird and fascinating apart from her desire to remain anonymous until the end despite her obvious genius, is the fact that she rarely developped her films and pretty much never printed them, and apparently when she did the result was generally bad. Interesting to see she was more interested in the process than in the actual results.

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
1 upvote
RienOnVanIsle
By RienOnVanIsle (Feb 23, 2012)

Mind-blowing photography to me. To be honest, I've never seen anything like it. I keep picking up this book up and am touched by the photos. Not all of them, of course and not always the same pictures, either, but isn't that a remarkable thing in itself?
There are several photo books on the coffee table by so-called great photographers. Technically better, perhaps, but this one is still the most interesting to me. It shows real people in a by-gone world so realistically and intimately it's nearly embarrassing. If pictures can touch me like that, what other criteria do I need to make it art?

3 upvotes
graybalanced
By graybalanced (Feb 22, 2012)

Still fascinated by the nay-sayers in this thread. I don't see the point of comparing her to Robert Frank or whoever. Why is this being turned into an either/or debate?

The bottom line is this: Do you think this world, and the world of photography, would be better off if Vivian Maier's collection had never been found? Or if it had been found and destroyed out of lack of interest? Or if it had been found and dismissed by armchair critics?

Or is the world better off because a neglected collection of historical photographs was found, appreciated, and published by a non-photographer?

1 upvote
Anna Schlecht
By Anna Schlecht (Feb 21, 2012)

Since reading the NYT Magazine article about Maier I'm transfixed. Like many people, I'm riveted & awaiting the remaining 90% of her work to be revealed.

To the nay-sayers: I've seen a lot of utter crap exalted as fine art. Maier's work is deeply affecting. I share the perspective from other reviews that Maier photographed the way that Studs Terkel wrote - capturing the street life of everyday people. And yes, her story, or what little we know of it infuses one's appreciation. But that is often the case with great artisits - - Modigiliani, Basquait & Capa to name a few.

Other nay-sayers discredit Maier's lack of sophistication or training. Bear in mind that many of the greatest photographers had precious little if any training - Weston had 6 months. Clearly she had a sharp eye for composition, the timing of when to shoot and the confidence to know that the single shots she took were indeed what she wanted to capture

Big thanks to Britton for this review.

7 upvotes
armanius
By armanius (Feb 21, 2012)

I am with you! I find it humorous that anyone would criticize Maier for lacking sophistication or training. Her photos speak for themselves. If anything, Maier's purported lack of training highlights her natural talents as a photographer.

4 upvotes
miwo76
By miwo76 (Feb 21, 2012)

Funny how this NYC street photographer never gets mentioned in the same breath:

http://www.amazon.com/Angels-World-Photographs-Angelo-Rizzuto/dp/0393061116

The backstory and quality of the images really isn't all that different between Angel and Vivian.

0 upvotes
Barney Britton
By Barney Britton (Feb 21, 2012)

I love that book! I held back from drawing parallels with Rizzuto in this review but his work is very very interesting, and his life (what's known of it) is fascinating and very sad.

0 upvotes
tessl8d
By tessl8d (Feb 21, 2012)

A brilliant film photographer.
More of her stuff here http://vivianmaier.blogspot.com.au/

0 upvotes
jmmgarza
By jmmgarza (Feb 21, 2012)

Good not great.

0 upvotes
tessl8d
By tessl8d (Feb 21, 2012)

U Jealous? Lol

0 upvotes
jmmgarza
By jmmgarza (Apr 20, 2012)

What, me, jealous?

0 upvotes
david70
By david70 (Feb 20, 2012)

There has been discussion that Vivian may have come in contact with, or may have been the student of Lisette Model. Not only does she share her photographic style and subject matter with Lisette Model (also similarities with Diane Arbus who was also Model's student at the New School in NYC), both Vivian and Lisette are Austrian with French mothers.

Another point about what is presented to us in Vivian's work is that the selection of images, and the assembly of the collection is not hers. It is the work of the 2 current owners of her negatives. How these images are selected, and how they are shown in the book may not represent Vivian's own intentions.

1 upvote
armanius
By armanius (Feb 20, 2012)

I rank Vivian Meier right up there as one of the great street photographers. Her photos capture the moment and the personalities in an emotionally inducing manner. I ordered this book from Amazon more than two weeks ago. Still waiting for it to arrive. I assume they didn't print too many books.

2 upvotes
WT21
By WT21 (Feb 20, 2012)

Armanius, I contacted the publisher directly, as I didn't like the Amazon pricing options (>$100). They said they expect more in early March (they said March 1, but we'll see). You can order on the publishers website, but I imagine the other outlets will be getting them in sometime after that, too. powerhousearena.com

2 upvotes
armanius
By armanius (Feb 20, 2012)

Thanks WT21! I got it at retail price, or at least I "ordered" it at retail price when Amazon itself was carrying it. It's ridiculous how these re-sellers buy a $30 book, and then try to resell it for $100+ just because the supply is low.

0 upvotes
WT21
By WT21 (Feb 22, 2012)

I understand. One story, though. I ordered this book from Amazon at retail in January. 4 weeks later, they cancelled my order, said they were unable to get the book. Then when I checked the book listing, prices were already up to $75. Hopefully the publisher ships before Amazon cancels your order!

0 upvotes
Lyteskrybe
By Lyteskrybe (Feb 20, 2012)

After viewing more of Vivian Maier's work on the net, it is easy to determine that she was a truly great photographer. Thanks Barney Britton and dpreview. I shall be picking up a copy of Street Photographer in the very near future. Best Regards.

0 upvotes
StephenMcCloud
By StephenMcCloud (Feb 20, 2012)

Boring beyond belief.

0 upvotes
themikeallenphoto
By themikeallenphoto (Feb 21, 2012)

your an idiot

1 upvote
cactusklaw5schel
By cactusklaw5schel (Feb 20, 2012)

Mr.Britton, Thank you for helping clarify a genre which often falls into postcard stenotypes or vulgur voyeurism .Your review clearly posited certain street photographs into the realm of creativity and art.That which impelled Maier to photograph and you to write this extraordinary article is a search for art and meaning.Thank you for lifting dpreview away from mirrors,resolution and the latest and greatest. Best Alan New Mexico USA

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
2 upvotes
wexie
By wexie (Feb 20, 2012)

From what I can tell (others may have more info), there are two groups involved with the Vivian Meier photos. One is John Maloof, who seems to have the largest part of the collection (starting with partial contents of her unpaid storage locker he bought at auction) and who seems to have started the ball rolling in his 2009 Flickr thread - "what should I do with all this?". He authored the above reviewed book (vivianmeier.com).

Another group includes Jeff Goldstein, who bought a smaller group of items in 2010 from another buyer at the auction; he heard about Meier at a Chicago flea market. These photos appear to be the ones in the current Steven Kasher gallery exhibit in NYC (vivianmeierprints.com).

Articles the last several years may reference one or the other group: NYT Lens 1/7/2011 is Maloof; NYT Lens 2/16/2012 refers to Goldstein.

So consistency of the photos shown may vary between the book, articles and various exhibitions depending upon whose Meier collection is used.

Comment edited 5 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
Kwick1
By Kwick1 (Feb 20, 2012)

So you suggest going to a bookstore, whose very livelyhood is being threatened, and read the book for an hour. Essentially stealing intellectual property. It's like standing at a magazine rack at the store, reading the articles that interest you, and then putting it back on the shelf. It's stealing, pure and simple.

Check it out from the library if you only want to peruse it. Otherwise, support your local bookstore and buy one.

1 upvote
unlearny
By unlearny (Feb 20, 2012)

At least he's compelling us to visit a bookstore. For a site owned by Amazon, that in itself is heresy.

1 upvote
Barney Britton
By Barney Britton (Feb 20, 2012)

Well, yes - if you like it, and you have the money, then buy it. Obviously.

1 upvote
mr moonlight
By mr moonlight (Feb 21, 2012)

There's a reason why bookstores have chairs, couches and tables in them. It's so people can sit and preview books.

Magazines are very different and most people are done with them in an hour. Books on the other hand can last for days, years or a lifetime. If you can pick up a book and be bored with it in an hour, it's not worth buying. It's not stealing, it's just one of the many ways to buy a book at a bookstore. Either way, the more traffic a store gets, the more money they make.

1 upvote
bborowski000
By bborowski000 (Feb 20, 2012)

For The most part photography is all about how well you can lie or enhance a scene given the quality of equipment you have. I however find a stark truth in her photos that is unsettling because, truth can be so ugly, and lies can be so lovely. Professionalism is nothing but doing your job in a cold calculating manner while remaining emotionally detached from the subject so you can mentally and physically focus all the powers you have at your disposal. That's my flap on it!

1 upvote
doctor digi
By doctor digi (Feb 20, 2012)

An odd ball who went out and took pictures.

Lots of pictures. Just for the sake of it.

Many she never even bothered to look at herself.

She dies.

Then some people find her "work", publish all the exceptional shots (and there will be a few given the total number taken), hype it, and make a heap of money out of it.

I hope we never discover any more Maiers. They are just a foundation for others to build wealth on.

I agree with the review: go and look at this book in a bookstore. But don't purchase it - unless you can be sure your money will go to the needy.

1 upvote
themikeallenphoto
By themikeallenphoto (Feb 20, 2012)

Bothered at? Or couldn't perhaps afford to look at all those images. This isn't a case of someone shotgunning images with a DSLR. She went out and captured these moments...with perfect light and composition. She was eccentric..but that is what made her special. If you are soo quick to bash why don't you put up images you have taken to show us that your opinion perhaps means a damn. Its always the crap photographers that post like this. The discovery of Vivian is such a wonderful thing. If someone makes money off her images whatever, the person scanning and curating the images for the world to see has a lot of work ahead of them still. I am happy for all the work that has been down to showcase her work. These images show the world like it was time again. Keep in mind also not ALL her images were of just the needy she shot soo many different subject matter. Everyone buy this book, I have a copy I proudly display on my shelf and show people when they come over.

3 upvotes
WT21
By WT21 (Feb 20, 2012)

Though quite a cynical comment, you could be right (that is, there are a couple of exceptional photos in a few hundred thousand). I also tend to think Street Shooting gets power from the passage of time (i.e. being able to look back in time).

Then again, you could be wrong, and she could be a lot better than you expect. What would be required to elevate her to the level of other famous street shooters? Does she have to have a verbalized philosophy on shooting? Does she have to photograph in a consistent "style"? Does she need to have some x% of shots be considered "good" (how many shots did Walker Evans and others throw away? I'm not sure myself. Just asking)? Was she supposed to fawn over her own photos (as opposed to not even looking at them), or perhaps market herself (as opposed to dying in obscurity)?

What criteria are needed to determine if she is "worthy" (whatever that might mean).

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
6 upvotes
doctor digi
By doctor digi (Feb 20, 2012)

And you are so quick to mis-read and also too quick to make unsupported claims about the type of people who might post such a comment.

I am not "bashing" her. Far from it. Her pictures were for her, not for anyone else. I actually think she would be somewhat horrified to know they have been published for other to gawk at.

Why do you think she didn't publish them herself? Because she didn't need to. Because that wasn't the objective of the exercise. Because taking them was for her own enjoyment. She probably didn't even give a thought to the fact they might be found and used by other people.

Yep - proudly display your book. And proudly support Mr Maloof and Mr Goldstein in the process.

2 upvotes
Dan Wagner
By Dan Wagner (Feb 20, 2012)

Umm, I wouldn't classify every person who chooses to lead a solitary life as an oddball. Maier enjoyed taking care of and being around children. Her work as a nanny was consistent with this. There are quite a few self portraits in her book, most of which look serious or dramatic. There is however one self portrait (the last page in book) of her reflection where she is smiling. I think this is the real Maier, and for me explains the high comfort level she has with her subjects.

As for others building their wealth on Maier's work, that's not necessarily a bad thing. Hopefully her meteoric rise will enable other deserving photographers to hitch a ride.

I bought my copy of Maier's book on Amazon and it was very inexpensive. Sure one could look at the book for free. Aperture and Greenberg galleries have copies one can peruse for free. However, as a photographer it's always nice to find a new candidate for one's inspiration shelf.

2 upvotes
doctor digi
By doctor digi (Feb 20, 2012)

WT21: I quite agree. The impact becomes greater as time goes by and one cannot judge such photography by comparing it to that of other people.

0 upvotes
unlearny
By unlearny (Feb 20, 2012)

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/04/AR2007040401721.html

Let's look at it like this. The advances in photography changed how and why people took photographs in the 50's, just like what is happening today.

Here is one new contributor to the purview of her era and generation. Interesting historically and technically strong. We should all go into the business of uncovering the overlooked artists from bygone eras, or even today, it would connect us more with life's wonder.

Not only did these ugly realities occur, but some woman saw fit to capture them, not for capital gain, but just because she was struck by it.

We should be less jealous of the "discoverers" and more awed by the possibilities her existence makes clear. Having a passion for something is its own reward, but there is also actual value there that many overlooked.

0 upvotes
unlearny
By unlearny (Feb 20, 2012)

what the hell? where are all these words going? They must end up somewhere, right?

0 upvotes
CFynn
By CFynn (Feb 21, 2012)

Many artists unrecognized in their time become "a foundation for others to build wealth on".

0 upvotes
mr moonlight
By mr moonlight (Feb 21, 2012)

So if any random person takes thousands and thousands of shots, they will come up with a few exceptional ones just because of the sheer number of them?

0 upvotes
martygervz
By martygervz (Feb 20, 2012)

I have this book. Like everyone, I'd like to know more about this incredible woman. The photographs may be eclectic, but there is always that steady gaze in the eyes of the people she has photographed. They must've trusted her. Using a twin-lens camera, as she did, was the perfect snap-shooter piece of equipment. She had to be patient. Those being photographed had to trust her. There is a lovely gentle quality to these pictures.

1 upvote
unlearny
By unlearny (Feb 20, 2012)

I feel that same rapport that you note, that many of her contemporaries lacked. Maybe she felt like publishing them would betray some unspoken trust? These images don't have a hint of exploitation, which is really rare! Really really RARE!

1 upvote
Ceesprof
By Ceesprof (Feb 20, 2012)

We have to be grateful, first of all to Vivian Maier and in the second place that her work was found and quality was recognized.

2 upvotes
themikeallenphoto
By themikeallenphoto (Feb 20, 2012)

I absolutely agree. Her work inspires me. AND yes - there is a certain connect with the subjects she shoots that you don't see too often.

Comment edited 21 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
LVPhoto1
By LVPhoto1 (Feb 20, 2012)

Vivian Maier - Her Discovered Work;
http://vivianmaier.blogspot.com/

3 upvotes
marike6
By marike6 (Feb 20, 2012)

Her images always make me miss my Rolleiflex. The square format that simplifies photography in that there are less framing decisions. And the lens on that camera is awesome.

1 upvote
themikeallenphoto
By themikeallenphoto (Feb 20, 2012)

I just received a medium format film scanner. I can't wait to shoot more square format images.

0 upvotes
graybalanced
By graybalanced (Feb 20, 2012)

It's amusing that a certain vocal slice of DPReview's readers would have severely dismissed the design of her camera today, if it was digital, because you compose on a screen instead of holding it up to your eye and look through it. ;)

5 upvotes
marike6
By marike6 (Feb 20, 2012)

That is quite an assumption you make that DPR readers have never used a Twin Lens Reflex camera. Many here come from film backgrounds, and have used all types of cameras, 35mm, medium format, including TLR and other 6x6 cameras like Hasselblad, to 6x7 like the Pentax 67 as well as 4x5 or 8x10 large format cameras. A waste level finder is not such an obscure accessory, and DPR readers come from all over the globe and have diverse backgrounds.

2 upvotes
Lyle Aldridge
By Lyle Aldridge (Feb 20, 2012)

I still use a TLR that I've had for about 30 years. Although one composes on a screen, the screen is shielded from light by a folding viewfinder, complete with a flip-up magnifier, and the camera is easily braced against the chest at the end of a neckstrap. If the TLR lacked its viewfinder, and had to be held out at arm's length, criticism of its design from that "vocal slice" would be fully warranted.

2 upvotes
Ben-Ami
By Ben-Ami (Feb 20, 2012)

We had a Kodak TLR in the fiftys

0 upvotes
Dan Wagner
By Dan Wagner (Feb 20, 2012)

Here's proof positive that DpReview readers such as myself use Rolleiflex TLR's every day of the week: http://www.blurb.com/my/book/detail/2966155 And you can shoot with film and later scan it to bring it into a digital environment. Best of both worlds.

2 upvotes
graybalanced
By graybalanced (Feb 22, 2012)

Now, now. There's a reason I specifically said "a certain vocal slice" rather than "all" DPReview's readers. Of course I know not everyone is that way.

But by missing the part where I said " a certain vocal slice," those of you who are that way, and sufficiently sensitive, have conveniently self-identified yourselves. :)

0 upvotes
Liberty555
By Liberty555 (Feb 20, 2012)

I'm sorry - I like this site and am a die hard DPREVIEW fan-boy, but how on Earth is that considered a "Book Review"?

3 upvotes
Lyle Aldridge
By Lyle Aldridge (Feb 20, 2012)

I suspect it's more of a book advertisement, given ownership of this site.

Is this the same Vivian Maier book that was touted here about a year ago? Or was that something else?

1 upvote
Simon Joinson
By Simon Joinson (Feb 20, 2012)

in what way could it not be considered a book review? Were you expecting graphs and charts?

0 upvotes
themikeallenphoto
By themikeallenphoto (Feb 20, 2012)

It did its job. It made some people aware of the boook that didn't know of it. I've been following her work since its discovery. Happy DPreview made mention of it. Don't be such a sour puss.

1 upvote
Liberty555
By Liberty555 (Feb 21, 2012)

A bit defensive there Simon...

Was it hardcover? Softcover? Number of pages? Any critical review (other than suggesting we don't buy it but rather stand around in the store thumbing through it). What about a comment on the foreword? What about Vivian herself? When and where was she born? and died?
I don't want graphs as you rudely suggest, I do want some weight to a "Book Review" though and not a shameless advert for a so-so book.

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
1 upvote
Silat Shooter
By Silat Shooter (Feb 20, 2012)

Vivian Maier was a nanny for a rich family. On her day's off, she would go out with her camera and take pictures purely as a hobby. She never made any attempts to sell or display her work, way back when. She was by no means, wealthy or doing photography commercially.

The people behind the images today purchased a lot from a storage facility and discovered within the lot, these negatives and after reviewing them thought they had something.

So if the images are viewed with that in mind, I think you find yourself with a bit more empathy for her. She does have some great images and not all are of people in need. Most are of urban Chicago life at that time. Some have commented that her images lack professional discipline and artistic consistency but she was not a professional photographer. Just a 'weekend warrior' doing what so many here on this forum love to do, take pictures. There were a great many rolls that weren't even developed by her in the lot, and the rest were negs.

2 upvotes
marike6
By marike6 (Feb 20, 2012)

As far as professional polish, some might make the same knock against a photographer like Gary Winogrand, but like Maier, his images have a unique quality, the ability to tell a story or capture a slice of life with the flair of a surrealist, and were in many ways more interesting than the technically perfect, but emotionally empty works of many more "accomplished" portraitists.

3 upvotes
themikeallenphoto
By themikeallenphoto (Feb 20, 2012)

Whoever said her work Lacked Professional discipline is being silly. How many "professional photographers" out there have work that is uninspiring. She had a style...she captured brilliant moments, and she will be one of the greats of her era. HANDS down. All the professional opinions out there be damned that say anything negative about work that is truly brilliant.

0 upvotes
ryan2007
By ryan2007 (Feb 20, 2012)

What is strange is you have photographs of people in need. I hope the photographer gave some money or offered help. It's like smile your homeless and I'll make money and a living on your plight. I am not questioning the photography part of it at all. It strikes me as taking advantage of a bad situation. If the editors or those who are going to the bank with proceeds from the book something should be done or simply don't buy the book.

Comment edited 43 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
graybalanced
By graybalanced (Feb 20, 2012)

Just keep in mind how much money she would have had to return if she had to refund every penny of revenue she received.

(Hint: It would be $0.00)

0 upvotes
Christian Wagner
By Christian Wagner (Feb 20, 2012)

It would be nice if people knew any amount of background on the photographer before making such silly comments.

5 upvotes
Jimmy Lai
By Jimmy Lai (Feb 20, 2012)

I agree with your remarks 100%. portion of the incomes from the book should donated to help the poor and homeless.

0 upvotes
Denis James Evans
By Denis James Evans (Feb 20, 2012)

America doe not look after its poor. End of story. Glad I do not live there.

6 upvotes
Geost
By Geost (Feb 20, 2012)

It's too socialist, haven't you heard? In America we worship the rich.

2 upvotes
M1963
By M1963 (Feb 20, 2012)

Why is it that, when the topic comes to poverty, there's always someone replying 'why didn't you give him money', or 'why didn't you offer help? When Kevin Carter took that famous photo of the starving child with a vulture behind him in Sudan, there were people who asked why he didn't save the child, or why he didn't scare the vulture away. This is hypocrisy at its worst. They could also ask why photojournos don't stop bombs from falling at a war scenario, too - it's that silly.
Do these people actually do anything to help those in need? No, of course they don't. Someone else will take care of it, either the state ('that's what I pay taxes for', they say) or charity. Yet if they see a photo of a homeless, they ask why the photographer didn't give him money. Ridiculous.
What's wrong about photographies that raise awareness of human condition? Is it that they make some people feel uncomfortable?

1 upvote
Silat Shooter
By Silat Shooter (Feb 20, 2012)

I have the book. I think she has amazing work and it well worth owning!

As others have mentioned here, there are plenty of Vivian Maier's out there who will never be discovered. Nice to see one of them found and highlighted!

3 upvotes
jtan163
By jtan163 (Feb 20, 2012)

Me too, and I agree.
My only dissapointment is that it is such a small slice of her work.

We can only hope more is published.
And yes I hope that some of the revenue goes to something other than the finder's pockets.

An annual prize for working class amateur street photographers strikes me as appropriate. One day such a thing might grow to the point an ameteur could take a year off and work a project.

0 upvotes
themikeallenphoto
By themikeallenphoto (Feb 20, 2012)

OF course more work will follow...there is still soo much work to be done with scanning, its a time intensive process

0 upvotes
jacketpotato
By jacketpotato (Feb 20, 2012)

Most of us want to make the world a better place for those in distress. Yet how to do it.
Photos can draw attention to their plight.
Yet there is also that thing called compassion fatigue.

Its tough to know how real difference can be made.

0 upvotes
jacketpotato
By jacketpotato (Feb 20, 2012)

Also tough to do things for others without drawing attention to oneself.

I would imagine Vivian Maier would say im insignificant, forget me. It is the people in plight i photoed who are important.

0 upvotes
fad
By fad (Feb 20, 2012)

I went to the gallery show in NYC.

The photos in the book are much better than the prints.

I'm glad she's getting all this posthumous praise. She must have worked very hard on her SP.

But I'm afraid all the publicity and the high quality of the images in the books is giving her a reputation she will not be able to sustain.

She is disciplined, but not professional. She has a good eye, but lacks the artists ability to be evocative.

Compare her to her contemporary, Vivian Cherry, and see that her images lack artistic resonance and professional discipline.

0 upvotes
graybalanced
By graybalanced (Feb 20, 2012)

The question is, who printed the photos?

Remember that the treasure trove was discovered by a historian who had zero photographic experience and was scanning the film with an Epson flatbed.

Is it her photography that is being criticized, or the printing, since you said the book images were better? It is highly possible that she is the wrong person to criticize for the printing.

Sadly, Vivan Maier is not around to supervise the printing of her art or to witness the appreciation of her work. Or the possibly unfair criticism of it.

Comment edited 58 seconds after posting
2 upvotes
fad
By fad (Feb 20, 2012)

There were some images printed in her lifetime. They were terrible. There is no dispute that her photography included no editing or printing worth speaking of. That is 2/3rds of being an art photographer.

I am not a fan of The Americans, but look at these Robert Frank photos from 1954.

http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/02/17/a-lonely-gaze-on-the-times-and-its-city/

It's just a commercial job, but they are at a far higher level of talent and sophistication.

0 upvotes
themikeallenphoto
By themikeallenphoto (Feb 20, 2012)

@ FAD - Are you freaking kidding? MUCH higher talent and sophistication? Some of the images look contrived as they are...and further more the don't move me like vivians images. AT ALL. And also the printing and scanning of the images done in recent times is crap!. I hope they moved away from the epson flatbed. That is a horrible option.

0 upvotes
wexie
By wexie (Feb 20, 2012)

See my comment above regarding two apparently different collections of Vivian Meier photos being presented in different media.

0 upvotes
michaelrz
By michaelrz (Feb 21, 2012)

I think that it would be unfair for almost any photographer to be compared to Robert Frank. It's like saying about some film maker that he's not that good, Hitchcock was better... Come on.
Maier had a uniqueness of her own, a GREAT eye and an entirely different way to look at the world.
So she wasn't interested in printing. Does that make her a less talented or significant photographer? I really don't think so.

0 upvotes
tmy
By tmy (Feb 28, 2012)

Some photographers print their own work and some don't. It doesn't detract from their talent in any way.
Famously, Henri Cartier Bresson did none of his own lab work, processing and printing, leaving it to prolabs. Nor do working professionals such as James Nacthwey. Nor do the top art photographers who sell their prints for millions of dollars such as Andres Gursky.

0 upvotes
ImagesInstyle
By ImagesInstyle (Feb 20, 2012)

i went to her exhibit in Los Angeles, and it was a Packed house!
her books were going there for $40.00, and sold out before the night
was over.

I have shot with a 6x6 camera a few occasions, and let me tell you, what
Vivian accomplished doing Street Photography with some of her images...
were short of Amazing!

She crafted her skills, and new the exact time to take the shot!

I truely admire her, and hope her body of work, encourages others to
appreciate that "Digital Photography" is sooo easy compared to shooting film.

Long Live the Rollei!!

0 upvotes
michaelrz
By michaelrz (Feb 20, 2012)

http://vivianmaier.blogspot.com/

1 upvote
CameraLabTester
By CameraLabTester (Feb 19, 2012)

There are many Vivian Maiers in this world...

Some of them are still living.

She encapsulates our desire to snap a slice of time.

.

Comment edited 3 minutes after posting
6 upvotes
WT21
By WT21 (Feb 19, 2012)

Side note -- Amazon's prices are through the marketplace, and quite silly (the cheapest is about $100, for a $40 list price book). You can also find this book listed at B&N (it says next shipment is March 15) and through some other, smaller outlets. Might try Googling for it.

Comment edited 21 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
WT21
By WT21 (Feb 19, 2012)

She died in obscurity, and he found her negatives by accident, at a sale of a storage locker (I believe it was a storage locker). He did nothing unethical, and to the contrary, had gone through great pains to bring her work to light. He hope he makes his living being her curator, as long as he continues to work to advance understanding of her (there were also audio tapes she left, which from the few minutes I've heard, sound quite interesting).

3 upvotes
WT21
By WT21 (Feb 19, 2012)

Sorry, I meant to say "I hope he makes his living being a curator"

0 upvotes
jl_smith
By jl_smith (Feb 19, 2012)

Ashley your understanding is wrong...nobody waited for her to die for her photos.

1 upvote
Ashley Pomeroy
By Ashley Pomeroy (Feb 19, 2012)

I think her work is super, although there's a tendency to pooh-pooh her for being accessible, eww. I'm a bit worried about the money, though; from what I understand her negatives were bought up by someone she'd never met or knew, who waited until after she died in order to cash in on her work. Which has made a lot of pennies; none of which she ever saw.

0 upvotes
tmurph
By tmurph (Feb 19, 2012)

This looks like a very good book, I must admit, to my eternal shame of never having heard of Vivian Maier before.
The photographs within show just what a brilliant talent she was and its sad to know that she never left any notes and given us some thoughts about her work.
I shall add one to my collection.
Never believe anyone who says photography is not art, this is simply stunning work.

0 upvotes
munro harrap
By munro harrap (Feb 19, 2012)

http://www.leica-oskar-barnack-preis.de/en/submissions/leica-oskar-barnack-award/17-peter-harrap-1/1

A fan of mine, a woman, told me about this lady ages ago, because she thought I might be interested, considering I do very much the same sort of thing now, but better, and in colour.

I just hope the book succeeds and that one fine day I get like appreciation:but so far, no takers.

0 upvotes
Hear2see
By Hear2see (Feb 20, 2012)

munro harrap said,
"I do very much the same sort of thing now, but better, and in colour."

I say,
"You are dreaming in technicolor."

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
6 upvotes
LukeDuciel
By LukeDuciel (Feb 20, 2012)

is it just me? The photo via the link looks dull and lacking center of interest.

3 upvotes
munro harrap
By munro harrap (Feb 20, 2012)

Yes, I now dream in Colour, because I accept the world as it is and can now afford to record it as it is. I used to use monochrome all the time as she did. I became well-known in the UK for the quality and the humanity of my work. I would not make silly remarks as you did; but will say instead that during my childhood I dreamt in colour. When I photographed in monochrome I was given monochrome dreams. But now, happily I dream again in colour, as whatever gives us dreams obviously does not like its work being taken for granted and ignored either!!
God created our world, and did so in colour. The joke was on me!

0 upvotes
Christian Wagner
By Christian Wagner (Feb 20, 2012)

I'm sorry but your photo you linked is not at all good, certainly not better, I will give you it is in colour however. I'm a little ashamed at Leica for posting it.

3 upvotes
munro harrap
By munro harrap (Feb 20, 2012)

Which photo was that? And what exactly are your reasons?

0 upvotes
CFynn
By CFynn (Feb 21, 2012)

I'm sorry Munro - I just took the time to look at all 12 photos at the link you posted and, though I can't fault them technically, none of them say very much to me. OTOH many of Vivian Maier's photos do.

1 upvote
munro harrap
By munro harrap (Feb 21, 2012)

What people like is wierd: choices I mean. How we "go" for one thing, and not another. Some like Mozart, others Wagner. Me, Wagner sends me to sleep. I do not even understand the processes by which I decide something is good, but one critic recently suggested that "there are rules".
There are no rules at all: they are merely the result of cultural brainwashing. Avoid them though, or ignore them, and people don't "get" your work until the culture has caught up. I know my work is good, so what "critics" say has zero effect on me. I'm bothered at how slow people are to get it.
I could show monochrome work that plays by all those traditions and it would make even Wagner drool, but Like hers, it is in the past and outdated.

But me dying in obscuririty as you drool over someone your forebears ignored, as you me, is really what you should be thinking about, as not even the critics do that, only editors!!

0 upvotes
bgillies
By bgillies (Feb 19, 2012)

"My advice is to find this book in your local bookshop, and spend an hour or so leafing through it."

An odd suggestion from the employee of an Amazon subsidiary. Courtesy of your parent company, I no longer have local bookshops.

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
0 upvotes
Barney Britton
By Barney Britton (Feb 19, 2012)

So go online and click 'look inside'

;)

1 upvote
Christian Wagner
By Christian Wagner (Feb 20, 2012)

Wow bgillies, courtesy of you and most other people on this site, Kodak is bankrupt. Perhaps you should look in the mirror once in a while before bashing others.

0 upvotes
STREETER
By STREETER (Feb 19, 2012)

She is simply the best street photographer, period.
To see her original images were just impressive.
John Maloof who "found her work" is a great photographer himself and has selected some of the very best of her immense work. We are very thankful for John's persistence to make her work available for the rest of us to see.
Nothing I have seen before comes close, in my opinion!
This is a "must have" for anyone interested in great art.

0 upvotes
Dragonfire
By Dragonfire (Feb 19, 2012)

Good post Barney, cannot wait to get the book in my hands here in Hungary. The story of Vivian is touching too, but the images are one of the most powerfull ones I have ever seen... simply a musthave

0 upvotes
The Lazy Photographer
By The Lazy Photographer (Feb 19, 2012)

I purchased this book a couple of weeks back and it's simply awesome. Right up there with Bresson's work. I find looking at VM's work makes me want to go out and shoot. As for the whole debate about street photography, I don't know. When I shoot street I don't think a lot about the bigger picture. I'm just trying to capture something interesting that tells a story.

Nice review...

0 upvotes
MysticX
By MysticX (Feb 19, 2012)

Her work destroys the American Dream.

If only comunists were able to get her work in the eighties, what a good anti capitalist propaganda they would had made out of it.

Just looking from outside, I'm from Eastern Europe and during that time we were told here that while we comunist citizens received free houses (that was true), many of the capitalist citizens were homeless and poor and the state was not giving them any help.

Of course we were refusing to believe it because the only contact with the capitalist west was luxury magazines and movies with rich people. It seems life in the west was not like in Dallas .....

3 upvotes
BIJ001
By BIJ001 (Feb 19, 2012)

> Her work destroys the American Dream.

Or at least your perception of it.

4 upvotes
Model Mike
By Model Mike (Feb 19, 2012)

"Of the countless photographers given the label 'street photographer' the worst are opportunists - vultures feeding on the sad, the filthy and the violent."

Oh, the dangers of broad sweeping generalisations! Perhaps the reviewer should look at the last two images, right there, in his own review. Either the shots were staged, or VM was just as 'opportunistic' as the next street photog. Barney should stick to reviewing cameras.

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
5 upvotes
Barney Britton
By Barney Britton (Feb 19, 2012)

Don't be rude.

The photographs you highlight are a good example of one of the things I find so fascinating about Maier - her work incorporates so many different styles and influences. But there's so much there - certainly enough to elevate her work into a position of enduring relevance.

9 upvotes
Model Mike
By Model Mike (Feb 19, 2012)

@Barney: As regards being 'rude', you seem to have a thin skin. Perhaps you might explain why you see fit to describer certain photographers as "feeding vultures", simply because they shoot subjects of which you appear to disapprove (and which ironically VM also chose to shoot). A case of pot and kettles...

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
2 upvotes
michaelrz
By michaelrz (Feb 20, 2012)

@Model Mike

It's all about the EYES and HEART of the photographer.
I think that by "vultures" Mr. Britton referred to the emotionally detached, cynical exploiters.
My impression is that Miss Maier was quite the opposite: a very gentle and sensitive photographer (and human being).

6 upvotes
DezM
By DezM (Feb 19, 2012)

As good as it gets

1 upvote
Reilly Diefenbach
By Reilly Diefenbach (Feb 19, 2012)

Makes me even more glad I live in the country :^)

0 upvotes
gribley
By gribley (Feb 19, 2012)

yeah, thank god there isn't poverty, depression, or misery out in the country! whew!

5 upvotes
jcb9001
By jcb9001 (Feb 19, 2012)

Yes, because if you can't see it, then it must not exist at all!

0 upvotes
Reilly Diefenbach
By Reilly Diefenbach (Feb 20, 2012)

Settle down, kids.

0 upvotes
BobYIL
By BobYIL (Feb 19, 2012)

What nanny Vivien Maier was trying to do in Chicage, a tailor named John Albok was doing in New York. She was one of the two part-time non-professional photographers who have left behind some amazing collections to make us wonder how they were able to express so much with so different perspectives by using one camera and one lens only. Through their photographs we also learn what not to be achieved through progress in technology.

Comment edited 3 minutes after posting
1 upvote
rondom
By rondom (Feb 19, 2012)

As good as her pictures are, I think part of the fascination with her work derives from wish of many photographers who hope to be "discovered" some day. 
Very unlikely in the digital age...maybe someone will unearth a  32 gb flash disk filled with unknown gem of jpegs, but I doubt it will have anything that is not already in Facebook or flickr....

0 upvotes
tmy
By tmy (Feb 28, 2012)

worst still, imaging discovering 32 GB on a card in some format that we can longer read!!!

0 upvotes
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