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Author Topic: Finding Vivian Maier  (Read 8072 times)
WalterEG
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« Reply #20 on: November 28, 2011, 04:33:50 PM »
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But second, and probably more important, as I looked at Maier's work it struck me for the first time that there's a feminine approach to street photography that's quite different from the masculine approach. I've got a couple of Helen Levitt's books, at least one of Dianne Arbus's, and some of Dorothea Lange's street work scattered among various publications, but it just never struck me before that women take a different approach to the street than do men. How's that for a revelation? ... Well, I guess it isn't, but I've never really noticed it before.

Russ,

Not just street photography, in my estimation.  Right across the board woman manifest a distinctively different approach to the world than we men do.  Note to the biased, I said "DIFFERENT" — not better and not worse.

Ruth Bernhard made some truly wonderful images of the nude at a time when such femme to femme action would have been very dimly frowned upon which indicates to me also that women have had to be stronger at times to make their voices heard.

Thankfully they did and we can enjoy their fruits.

W
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RSL
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« Reply #21 on: November 28, 2011, 06:33:30 PM »
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Well, I certainly agree with you, Walter, but it never struck me that a female approach to street photography was generically different from male street photography. I should have spotted it earlier, but there's something about Maier's work that makes it jump out at me.
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jalcocer
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« Reply #22 on: November 29, 2011, 04:42:20 PM »
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Her work is remarkable, was able to take a look at some of her pictures and have to say for me she seem's to include a story in a lot of them, I'm trying to find that book here in Mexico, but still have no luck, hopefully I'll get my hands on one soon.
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wolfnowl
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« Reply #23 on: November 30, 2011, 02:59:36 PM »
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"Vivian Mayer: Street Photographer" (hardcover) is now available through Amazon and wherever else you order books...

Mike.
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PhillyPhotographer
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« Reply #24 on: December 01, 2011, 10:51:03 PM »
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You might also want to gander at the latest issue of LensWork.
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luxborealis
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« Reply #25 on: December 12, 2011, 09:55:20 PM »
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Sorry folks, but how many times nowadays do we hear about artists that are defined more by their life and than by their photos. Surely there are others out there who see what's really happening here.

Obviously Vivian Maier captured some wonderful pictures - don't get me wrong - but what stirs me up is that most of the talk is not about her pictures (beyond the usually platitudes) but about her life. As usual, it's the human interest story that has catapulted her to posthumous stardom, not the art.

I am one artist who is tiring of hearing about artists being "discovered" for their human interest stories and become "projects". I can't become rich and famous (unless I will a lottery) and buy my way into the art world. Perhaps if I cut off my ear, I, too, will be "discovered".

If human interest is the way for artists to be discovered, what does that say about art in general and photography more specifically? Perhaps it says that hundreds of us are doing amazing work, but our lives are just too mundane to be captivating for the so-called art world stage.

And for the naysayers - no, it's not sour grapes talking, that's for sure, but rather a healthy dose of a different perspective from one who choses not jump on every celebrity-of-the-week band-wagon.
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Terry McDonald
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RSL
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« Reply #26 on: December 13, 2011, 04:53:54 AM »
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As usual, it's the human interest story that has catapulted her to posthumous stardom, not the art.

Terry, If you've actually seen her pictures, and if you've actually looked at Van Gogh's paintings, and if you still feel both artists have made it strictly on the basis of PR, I'd suggest you make an early appointment to see an ophthalmologist.
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Rob C
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« Reply #27 on: December 13, 2011, 10:52:57 AM »
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Aye, Russ, it's a difficult one on which to take a firm stance.

Whilst I don't necessarily agree with it re. Vince, I do when you bring in a lot of other folks I won't mention because they are still alive and possibly in a strong position to sue and make themselves even more moolah on the side.

I remember reading Lust for Life when I was around fourteen; that coloured my vision of Van G. to the extent that when I actually got to see a few originals, I'd have worshipped the guy if he'd used contemporary elephant dung as medium! Its very, very difficult to divorce your mind's eye from your seeing one.

If anything, I think this is a relatively modern problem, especially in the world of photographs, where some pretty mundane stuff has sold for zillions only because of the hype associated with the snapper. And yes, I also do believe that there are many unsung heroes out there, ploughing their lonely furrow and doomed to not a lot until the day they bow out, their kids chucking their oeuvre into the trash as they clean up the house to sell it. I'd hardly imagine it's any different in music, either. I was just playing Julie London's Black Coffee as I started to write this; who can do that today? Listen to rap and tear your hair out. The same holds when I think about some of the Tamla Motown singers and rap... what's happened to all that talent in Detroit? All that black artistry abandoned for what?

Signs of the times.

Rob C

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PhillyPhotographer
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« Reply #28 on: December 13, 2011, 02:14:30 PM »
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While some say her work is greeted with over exuberance because of the story attached to it, it's those people who can't get past the story and see the beauty of her work. Only a small fraction has been seen.
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luxborealis
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« Reply #29 on: December 13, 2011, 02:50:11 PM »
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Either I didn't make myself entirely clear or you are misunderstanding what I said.

While Vivan Maier's work is interesting and certainly artful (as is van Gogh's, but he's on a different plain altogether) - the point is that the art world appears to be increasingly enamoured with the story, the human interest side, the narrative, than with the art. It's the over-emphasis on the narrative that begs the question: Is it great art that sells or great narrative that sells great art? Furthermore, if the art is not quite great, a great narrative seems to make up for it.

There are so many artists doing so many wonderful things, to make yourself stand out, it seems that nowadays you need a good narrative, too. It's rather like photographs that can only be explained by their titles (too often cutsey but also clever). The work should stand on its own. But in a world of celebrity, the art, by itself, doesn't seem to be good enough.
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Terry McDonald
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PhillyPhotographer
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« Reply #30 on: December 13, 2011, 03:53:47 PM »
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It's not "nowadays", it's been that way for a very long time. Pick up any Art Forum magazine as far back as the early 80's. Artist Bios, statements, etc, etc. People in the art world want a story so hype is part of the norm.
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Rob C
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« Reply #31 on: December 13, 2011, 04:51:31 PM »
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That certain people need a story in order to sell their protégé's stuff isn't in dispute; what's in dispute is whether that's a good thing in that it screens off people without either 'story' or PR consultants, people who might still be better artists than those with the publicity muscle.

In the end, I suppose that it comes down to the buying public - well, the buying investor - who needs the hype in order to find a reason, a push, to get himself over the hump of doubt.

Rob C
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PhillyPhotographer
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« Reply #32 on: December 13, 2011, 09:09:44 PM »
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In reality you don't need a story when you can produce images like this. Makes me say Bresson who ?





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Rob C
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« Reply #33 on: December 14, 2011, 02:46:02 AM »
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I'm afraid I can't agree; the pics are competent, especially (IMO) the first one, but the other two are nothing special at all - simply what any newspaper snapper of the old school could have produced had there been any chance of it getting published.

In fact, I think you have just shown the essential requirement for such photographs/photographers to have a 'history' behind them - without that, on the strength of a Friday/Saturday night image and of yet another guy down on his luck, who'd care? That such images might be well-executed isn't the point; the point in question is their value as interesting shots. For me, only the first one of the lady in the gown, has 'it', the magical essence that transcends the banality of the situation itself. Try as I might, the only virtue I see in the others is the time-reference to the clothing fashions of the day, unavoidable accidents.

Rob C
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PhillyPhotographer
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« Reply #34 on: December 14, 2011, 09:04:13 AM »
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That's what street photography is. Chance being depicted during time.  Shocked
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Slobodan Blagojevic
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« Reply #35 on: December 14, 2011, 11:29:55 AM »
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"Photographs should stand on their own" = ridiculous

"No photograph should benefit from its title" = ridiculous

"Art, by itself" = sheer nonsense

Context matters. Body of work matters. Putting things into perspective matters. History matters. Story matters. Human side matters.

Even the most barren of landscapes contains human element, and not one, but two: photographer and viewer. There is no such thing as "art, by itself"... to be defined and accepted as art, it requires an artist, critics, viewers, public, consensus, context, story, body of work, etc.

Historic context matters: Ansel is great not because his "art, by itself" is great, but because he was the first to do something different. From today's perspective, some of his work is quite mundane and, quite frankly, easily reproducible by iPhones.

The same goes for the lady photographer in the OP. I have not seen much of her work, nor I am much into street photography, but for God's sake do not judge her relevance by today's standards. When we are drowning today in a deluge of photographs of epic proportions, where even a Noah's Arc would not help, it is easy to dismiss a photo as "just another of...". Put it in the context of the time in which it was made, and it might just as well be unique, if not one of very few. There was a time when not everyone was a photographer, let alone street one, when photography required dedication and mastery, and even a certain element of magic (anyone who watched an image appear out of nowhere on a submerged white paper, under red light, will know what I am talking about). Photographs made under those circumstances should not be measured by the yardstick of today's Flickr crap.

A disclaimer: statements above, some of which are, of course, hyperboles, are meant for rhetoric purposes only and not to offend anyone personally
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Slobodan

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Rob C
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« Reply #36 on: December 15, 2011, 03:08:39 AM »
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Thing is, Slobodan the western world was already drowning in photographic images; newspapers used to be everywhere, even wrapping up the fish'n'chips, a fine testimonial to much of the printed matter.

All of those 'modern' street shooters were working in a situation where press photography was commonplace in media. There's nothing special to be seen there in a photographically historical sense - it's not as if they were pioneers, or anything, they were just doing their thing or their job, as the circumstance may have been. In fact, when you consider the printed landscape then as compared with the paucity of 'serious' print today, they had it easy!

The difference, in my opinion, is that some of the ones (shooters) who went on to become legendary actually had a damned good eye for what they were supposed to be doing, which I think is why their work still stands today. I've never bough a print by any of them, wouldn't even consider the medium a thing for the wall, but that in no way diminishes the value of the work in book form, both interesting to me as historical capsule as well as an indication of how far one has personally to go in order to see the world as clearly.

Rob C
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popnfresh
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« Reply #37 on: December 15, 2011, 12:36:58 PM »
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Obviously Vivian Maier captured some wonderful pictures - don't get me wrong - but what stirs me up is that most of the talk is not about her pictures (beyond the usually platitudes) but about her life. As usual, it's the human interest story that has catapulted her to posthumous stardom, not the art.

The only reason we're talking about her life at all is because of her remarkable creative vision. If she had taken crappy photographs she would have remained as unknown in death as she was in life.
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PhillyPhotographer
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« Reply #38 on: December 15, 2011, 02:07:27 PM »
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The only reason we're talking about her life at all is because of her remarkable creative vision. If she had taken crappy photographs she would have remained as unknown in death as she was in life.

Exactly right.
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Walt Roycraft
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« Reply #39 on: December 20, 2011, 12:07:46 PM »
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I had the privilege of seeing the exhibit in Chicago this spring.  It was a real treat seeing her vision.

I think she had extraordinary talent.
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