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
Feb 15, 2015
Feb 17, 2015
Jan 25, 2015
Jan 25, 2015
|Owens Valley Milky Way by ed rader|
from Sign, sign, everywhere a sign..
|Break by Hank3152|
from Motion blur
|Camp by T bird|
from A Big Year - birds
|The Maasai Shepherd by cgravel|
from - African Man - (Portrait in Black and White + A Border)
German media reports that the founders of the company behind the Panono 360-degree ball camera have filed for bankruptcy at a court in Berlin. Read more
With a claimed 800 new custom parts, Microsoft's updated Surface Pro comes with the latest Kaby Lake processors, better battery life, a new hinge, plus the Surface Pen is updated as well. Read more
DW Photo is attempting to resurrect the Hy6 medium format camera, though the legal tangles of its development may stop it being branded Rolleiflex.
The Kodak EKTRA, the company's 'camera first' smartphone, is now available to purchase in the United States. Read more
Apple and Nokia have settled their years-old patent dispute. Apple will make an undisclosed payment to Nokia and sign a licensing agreement related to digital health products with the Finnish company.
David Gibson, one of Britain's best known street shooters, shares all.
Photographers from the SKYGLOW project travelled 150k miles and took 3 million photos in increasingly rare locations: those without light pollution.
The world's fastest 200mm was produced for 16 years. In that time, only 8000 were made.
Photokina, the biennial photo industry trade show in Cologne, Germany, has announced that it will become an annual event beginning in 2018, and expand its focus to additional areas of imaging technology. Read more
No mic socket? No problem. In this video, Daniel Peters at Photo Gear News shows you how to make a lapel microphone using just a smartphone and a pair of earbuds.
How does the iPhone 7 Plus stack up against the Arri Alexa cinema camera? Watch this short video to find out.
Canon Australia's video series "The Lab" is designed to make photographers experiment and think outside the box. In the latest video a group of photographers create images based on their sense of taste.
The GH5 is expected to get a firmware update this summer to support 400Mbps internal recording. NewsShooter explores what memory cards you'll need to make it work.
Microsoft's new Surface Pro offers Intel's latest processor generation and improved battery life.
Riding a mountain bike downhill is dangerous enough in daylight, but potentially lethal at night. Which is where drones come in.
Rumors abound that Canon (and maybe Nikon) may produce a mirrorless camera based using their existing DSLR mount. Does this guarantee immediate great lens choice or a perpetually second-rate experience? Read more
According to rumors, the next camera from Nest will be able to capture 4K video, though that resolution will be only used for 'virtual' pan and tilt functions.
Boundary's Prima 'fully modular' backpack is expandable to 30L and has a removable camera case and tablet sleeve. Early Kickstarter backers can get one for $189.
Stanley Greene captured 'brutally honest' photographs in the war zones of the Middle East, Chechnya and Georgia. He was also one of the few African-American photographers working internationally.
Owners of Leica M cameras that suffer from peeling CCDs will be able to claim a free repair in the future so long as the camera was purchased within five years of the fault becoming apparent, the company has announced. Read more
The Carl Zeiss Jena BIOTAR 75mm F1.5 Red T lens is very rare and priced accordingly. It can be yours today for the low, low price of $15,000.
The MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) has developed a drone that does not require any human control for recording tracking shots. Read more
In this terrifying video, Iraqi journalist Ammar Alwaely narrowly misses a sniper's bullet, which takes out his chest-mounted GoPro. Warning: strong language. Watch the video
A new report expects action camera growth to increase about 15% by 2021, with Ultra HD cameras driving demand. Read more
Profiles for Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom have been released for Irix's ultra-wide 11mm and 15mm primes. Like all profiles, these correct for distortion and vignetting.
An upcoming firmware update from DJI will cripple its drones unless they are 'activated' on the company's website. Live streaming will be turned off and flight radius/altitude will be limited.
Brent from ShareGrid rounds up the 10 most common products filmmakers are renting from one another for productions; chances are good you own one or more of them.
DaVinci Resolve is making strong moves to compete with Premiere and Final Cut Pro, including affordable control panels for colorists. According to Premium Beat, they're really good.
If you are not planning to fly your drone commercially you are not required to register it with the FAA anymore. This decision was handed down by a federal court in Washington, D.C.
Whether you're syncing a flash, wondering why banding is appearing in your image or getting strange images from your camera's silent shutter mode, the way your shutter works has a role to play. Here's what happens when you press the shutter button. Read more