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
Instagram is currently testing a major change to the app's profile layout: replacing the 3-photo across grid with a 4-photo grid... and some users are NOT taking the news well.
A report by USSRPhoto is shedding some light on the return of the famed Zenit camera brand. It seems the full-frame mirrorless camera they're working on will be made in part by Leica using components from the Leica SL.
According to a reliable Korean report, Samsung is developing a smartphone sensor that's capable of super slow motion. Translation: Samsung's next batch of Galaxy smartphones may be able to shoot 1,000fps.
This simple photograph of a seahorse and Q-tip has taken the internet by storm. We spoke to photographer Justin Hofman about how it was captured, and what it means to him.
After a massive leak last week, Profoto has officially debuted the Profoto A1: the company's first on-camera flash system that they're calling "the world's smallest studio flash."
"When the first hyperfocal distance charts were designed, someone decided that an acceptably sharp background contained some blur — enough to notice in a medium-sized print [...] After that point, nearly every other hyperfocal chart followed suit."
The Canon EOS Rebel SL2 (also known as the EOS 200D) is the company's impressively compact entry-level DSLR. Packing a 24MP APS-C sensor, DIGIC 7 processor and Dual Pixel AF, it promises a lot of bang for the buck. And while not mind-blowing, it handles most tasks very well.
Correct these four common composition mistakes and your photos will be more balanced, tell a better story, and lead your viewer's eye where you want it to go.
The rugged, compact 360° action camera Kodak unveiled at Photokina in 2016, the Kodak PixPro Orbit 360, is finally available in the United States.
iOS 11 launches tomorrow, and it'll save all of your pictures in a new high efficiency image format called HEIC. Fortunately, there's now a converter that will let you turn those photos back into JPEGs.
Photo protection company ImageRights recently released a new service that lets non-subscribers take advantage of their streamlined copyright registration system that checks for errors and fills out all the required forms for you.
What's the difference between a $200 circular polarizing filter and a $100 circular polarizing filter? Roger Cicala at Lens Rentals put six different filters through a few tests to find out.
A flurry of leaks reveal that GoPro's upcoming Hero6 will shoot 4K at 60fps, 1080p at 240fps, will cost $500, and is scheduled for announcement/release on September 28th.
Before he became the iconic director whose name we've all heard, a teenage Stanley Kubrick struck up a business relationship with New York’s Look magazine. No surprise: he was an incredibly talented photographer.
WD's new G-Technology G-Drive mobile SSD R-Series is a portable solid state option for photographers who want the reliability of an SSD in a rugged water and dust-resistant package.
Fast, stabilized and affordable is an appealing combination when it comes to lenses. With its latest 24-70mm F2.8, Tamron aims to upgrade autofocus speed and stabilization. We've got a full gallery from this updated full-frame zoom.
Photographer Clay Cook tells the story of his most ambitious photographic dream and career goal coming true: photographing A-list actress Jennifer Lawrence.
In an interview with a Chinese website, Nikon Japan's Director of Development dropped a bombshell, saying that a Nikon mirrorless camera "must be full-frame."
Here's a side-by-side spec comparison of two flagship devices with particular attention to the things that really matter – at least to people who prioritize photography features.
A month and a half after revealing the finalists of the 2017 EyeEm Awards, the photo sharing community and licensing marketplace has finally revealed the winners.
Photographer Josselin Cornou tells the breathtaking story behind two beautiful photos captured while snorkeling with humpback whales in Tonga.
The Sony RX10 IV is a fixed lens camera with a 1"-type sensor and 24-600mm equivalent lens that can shoot 4K video or stills at 24 fps, but that's not what we think is interesting about it. The addition of phase detection autofocus is pivotal to all those features.
The announcement date is set! Google will reveal their next generation Pixel phones—their response to Apple's shiny new iPhone X—on October 4th. Let the smartphone camera wars begin.
Sony just debuted three palm-style 4K camcorders that steal a bit of speedy phase detect autofocus technology from the company's RX10 IV. In fact, they kind of improve on it.
Earlier today, NASA's Cassini spacecraft plunged into Saturn's atmosphere, ending a 20 year long mission. Here are 21 of our favorite photographs captured by this incredible machine and its makers.
Fans of film photography should keep an eye out for the widespread theatrical release of Kodachrome, a movie staring Jason Sudeikis about the final days of the iconic film stock.
Photographer Manny Ortiz breaks down the pros and cons of shooting natural light vs off-camera flash, and explains why he chooses to shoot one, the other, or both in any given situation.
A leaked product page and a bunch of leaked photos shows Profoto is preparing to release its first ever speedlight: the Profoto A1 Air TTL
The Yashica camera brand disappeared in 2003, but a new teaser video and website hint at a comeback. Excited?
Western Digital just debuted a new, higher capacity WD Gold internal hard drive. The new drive offers 12TB of storage and class-leading reliability to the tune of a 550TB/year workload rating.