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Author Topic: Vivian Maier  (Read 3127 times)
Rob C
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« on: June 26, 2013, 03:48:26 AM »
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I watched a semi-docu on Vivian Maier last night.

Amazingly accomplished snapper whose oeuvre raises more questions than it supplies answers. First of all, where/how did she learn film-handling and how to refine exposure techniques if she had access only to very rudimentary darkroom facilties; how did she gather the dosh to buy a Rolleiflex at a time when they were still in short supply and expensive; what drove her in the first place?

I don't suppose these will ever be questions with definitive answers, but whatever the reality, she sure had an eye every bit as good as that of the celebrated snappers doing it for the money.

Was she nuts? Perhaps she was, a little bit; does a 'normal' person roam the dark areas risking limb and property in pursuit of an image, an image that will bring no financial return? Was the lure of the image so strong that it overcame her fear? Did she fail to experience the fear or concern at all? Was she living in her own little bubble, hermetically sealed and protected from everything alien?

Was the show a rewarding one? It opened my eyes to the work of a lady of whom I had only heard mention here, on LuLa; was I pleased at the end of the experience? For the work, yes; for the exploitation that follows the discovery, no! It made me feel sick. Sharks at home in a pool of poison.

Rob C
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Isaac
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« Reply #1 on: June 26, 2013, 09:39:19 AM »
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Also -- Vivian Maier: Out of the Shadows
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RSL
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« Reply #2 on: June 26, 2013, 09:51:28 AM »
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There's a sudden plethora of Vivian Maier books, Rob -- well, I think four reasonably can be called a plethora considering how recently Vivian's work was discovered. If you like her work, try to lay hands on Vivian Maier: Street Photographer, and, as Isaac mentioned, Vivian Maier: Out of the Shadows. If possible, borrow the books. Don't buy them. The printing in the first is execrable, and the photographs in the second aren't as good as the photographs in the first. But both books give you a fairly complete picture of the work this interesting lady did.

I was sorry to see the title on the first book. Whoever picked that title obviously didn't understand street photography. Vivian was a very good photographer, and in many cases her unusual approach to the art is captivating, but unless you believe a picture of a person on the street is street photography you won't find much genuine street photography among her photographs.

Wish I could have seen the semi-docu you mentioned. I think her story is fascinating.
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Rob C
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« Reply #3 on: June 26, 2013, 10:47:12 AM »
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In the semi-doc, it mentioned that one person who'd managed to acquire some of the negatives wasn't willing to take part in the programme because he was making his own show; how much good was kept out of sight because of that, I can't know... but the circus has begun!

Of what was shown, some 'pastoral' shots were very nice productions with good balance/weight of contents; there were also some more bleak images that might only appear bleak in hindsight: a face peering out through a hole in a large, broken concrete pipe with reinforcing steel mesh forming the shadow of the cross on the face of the person looking out of the hole in the pipe. Was this happy accident? I wonder if she even saw the shadowy crucifix motif at that distance. Who will ever know - hence the more questions than answers thing that bedevilled the programme.

However, there were also many shots that meant absolutely nothng to me. Maybe that's a manifestation of greed: anoint it all, and hope that everything sells!

A badly printed photo-book is worse than no book at all.

Rob C
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RSL
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« Reply #4 on: June 26, 2013, 11:03:52 AM »
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Yeah, the exploitation of her work has been over the top -- as you put it, "a circus." Too bad she wasn't alive to decide what could be shown and what couldn't. The fact that an artist is judged on the basis of all her visible work seems not to have crept into the crania of her exploiters. As a result, by going for volume instead of quality they've managed to downgrade the whole effect. They don't understand what my mentors in the Air Force used to emphasize to me: "Take all the 'attaboys' you can get, but remember that one 'dumbshit' wipes out all the 'attaboys.'" Most photographers would be better off if they'd learn that lesson.
« Last Edit: June 26, 2013, 11:38:55 AM by RSL » Logged

Patricia Sheley
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« Reply #5 on: June 26, 2013, 12:26:09 PM »
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....sympatico...
 http://www.benjamenchinn.com/Benjamen_Chinn/Paris.html#8
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A common woman...

www.patriciasheley.com
Rob C
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« Reply #6 on: June 26, 2013, 02:02:03 PM »
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Yes, and I see the influence of those "Boys from Paris" come marching through! Or some pretty long coincidences of thought.

It's funny though; reading the bio and the stuff about study etc. it makes the entire US photo-world of the time (and perhaps now - who can tell?) seem very tight and incestuous. It's like a gang of photographer/painter-led taste-makers and power brokers... ironic how that power shifted to the galleries and away from the artists. I suppose that when selling pictures became really a professional enterprise, it was inevitable that other sorts of minds would take it over. Don't they always?

I also found myself enjoying the look of film.

Thanks for the link.

Rob C
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PhillyPhotographer
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« Reply #7 on: June 27, 2013, 10:40:35 AM »
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Exactly what "semi-docu" did you watch ? Link ?

I know John Maloof who I keep in contact with is almost finished his documentary.

http://www.vivianmaier.com/film-finding-vivian-maier/
« Last Edit: June 27, 2013, 11:06:17 PM by PhillyPhotographer » Logged

PhillyPhotographer
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« Reply #8 on: June 27, 2013, 11:06:30 PM »
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Come on Rob
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Rob C
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« Reply #9 on: June 28, 2013, 02:55:27 AM »
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Come on Rob


I'm sorry, I don't know how to link to this: it was a programme on BBC tv (satellite) that I watched here in Spain a couple of days ago. It was 'made' by Alan Yentob, who seems to be a guru whom they usually wheel out for artsy programmes.

I always try to add links where I can, because otherwise the whole point of posting opinions on visual things becomes sort of lost, but I just don't know the solution in this case.

Rob C
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kikashi
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« Reply #10 on: June 28, 2013, 03:00:14 AM »
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Exactly what "semi-docu" did you watch ? Link ?

It's available on the BBC iPlayer site, Michael: www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer. Search for maier and the programme appears.

I suspect, however, that you won't be able to watch it, as viewing BBC programmes on iPlayer is usually restricted to the UK.

Jeremy
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Jim Pascoe
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« Reply #11 on: June 28, 2013, 06:49:11 AM »
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It was very interesting I agree - the 'Imagine' series on the BBC has had some very good episodes on photographers.  Made you realise how much untapped, unseen talent there probably is, and we all concentrate on the 'names'.  I think going back to Rob's question on how did she afford the camera etc.  She had no partner (husband), no children, and lived most of the years while she was working as a nanny with the families.  Therefore I doubt she had much else to spend her money on.  A roll of film a day - with practise like that and no other distractions perhaps it's unsurprising she produced such a body of work.  Talented as well of course.

Jim
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PhillyPhotographer
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« Reply #12 on: June 28, 2013, 07:51:35 AM »
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Must i do every thing.  Cheesy

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0_ZKYhtSHmg
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Rob C
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« Reply #13 on: June 28, 2013, 11:02:40 AM »
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Thanks for your help - lets me see it again because Jeremy is right: the replay (official) won't permit outwith UK © area.

Obviously, I was never designed to be an electronic spy!

;-)

Rob C
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PhillyPhotographer
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« Reply #14 on: June 28, 2013, 03:08:40 PM »
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When in doubt check Youtube, Vimeo, Dailymotion.
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BobDavid
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« Reply #15 on: June 28, 2013, 04:29:06 PM »
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Florida Museum of Photographic Arts in Tampa (FMoPA) hung a show of Vivian Maier's work. I think the show had around 40 prints. I don't know if any of them were printed by her. Maybe a few were. Mostly I think the original negatives were scanned and then printed onto nice ink jet paper. It is possible that some were contact printed onto silver gelatin paper from large negative transparencies printed with an Epson. I've recently heard that a "master printer" recently made traditional silver gelatin prints from some of her negatives.

I get confused at photo galleries and museums. A few years ago, I saw a beautiful show of Leonard Herman's work at our local art museum. I didn't learn until after he gave a talk and told the audience that all of the prints hanging in the museum show were made from scans of the original negatives. The files were then post processed in PS and outputted through an Epson onto transparent media.  The big ink jet negatives were used to make contact prints on high-quality silver gelatin paper. They were gorgeous. Funny thing, I don't think the curator of the show realized this at the time the show was hung. There was not a single reference to his workflow. There were plenty of long-winded artspeak notes posted on the wall.

Mr. Hermon later gave a talk. He said the hybrid prints were better than anything he could have printed using an enlarger. He had no qualms about extending tonal ranges and spotting negatives in PS. I was impressed by his willingness to push the medium.

I now walk into photo galleries and wonder what they are really selling. Over the last couple of years, I've been seeing a lot of "limited editions" authorized by estates or old photographers that sign and number inkjet prints from vintage negatives. I would not purchase them as investment vehicles.

Michael Johnston has a valid point. He disses the concept of limited editions in the digital age.
« Last Edit: June 28, 2013, 10:14:30 PM by BobDavid » Logged
Schewe
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« Reply #16 on: June 28, 2013, 05:22:54 PM »
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Fine art photography is getting weirder and weirder to commoditize.

The whole Vivian Maier saga has been an interesting (and frustrating) story here in Chicago for a few years...last year upon the release of a new book, there was a gallery show with non-vintage, silver gelatin prints made by a local Chicago print specialist. The prints were really nice but the gallery sucked because for some reason their heat was on even though the temps outside were in the high 60's. You could only stand to be in the gallery for 5-10 minutes at a time :~(

At the exact same time, just down the road was a different, non-associated Vivian Maier show at the Chicago History Museum...that show was a mix of silver gelatin and pigment inkjet prints. Some of the larger pigment inkjet prints didn't hold up as well as as the smaller silver gelatin (about 24"x24" framed sizes).

You can read the Vivian Maier Wikipedia story...it describes the "discovery" of a large amount (said to be 100K) of her negs–some undeveloped and a smaller number of vintage prints by a real estate agent John Maloof ...I remember seeing a local PBS special on Vivian and an interview of Maloof. Maloof came off as somebody who wasn't looking to exploit Vivian Maier's legacy but somebody who was kinda thrown into the situation. The show talked about him having to learn curatorial arts and the effects he spent organizing and digitizing the collection that was in his possession.

A few years later, Chicago art collector Jeffrey Goldstein acquired a portion of the Maier collection from one of the original buyers–it's not clear who sold what to whom...both Maloof and Goldstein have portions of Maier's work...which is where the confusion and competition has come from. There's also a 3rd person, Ron Slattery who has a smaller collection and posted images on his own website.

None of which negates the talent that Vivian Maier shows in her photography...she was a true amateur and it seems she never tried to sell or profit from her work–although she did sometimes give prints away to some of the people she photographed, she rarely if ever showed other people her work.. According to the Wiki article, toward the end of her life, Maier may have been homeless for some time. She lived on Social Security and may have had another source of income, but the children she had taken care of in the early 1950s bought her an apartment in the Rogers Park area of Chicago and paid her bills. In 2008, she slipped on ice and hit her head. She did not fully recover and died in 2009, at 83.  

It's a sad but interesting story...sometime this year, there's due to be a release of a film titled Finding Vivian Maier...

John Maloof owns and runs http://www.vivianmaier.com.
Jeffrey Goldstein owns and runs http://www.vivianmaierprints.com/
Ron Slattery had shown some of Vivian's photos on his web site http://www.bighappyfunhouse.com

Here's a local story from 2011 that tells some of the backstory between Maloof & Slattery Getting the Right Angle on Vivian Maier.

Some people accuse Maloof & Goldstein of trying to exploit Vivian Maier's legacy while others credit them with bringing her work to the attention of the art community and furthering her legacy. I think the truth is somewhere in the middle. But, the bottom line is if these guys hadn't done something, Vivian Maier would have passed along into obscurity and her work would have been lost. Which would have been a shame because the work speaks for itself...
« Last Edit: June 28, 2013, 05:26:22 PM by Schewe » Logged
jerome_m
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« Reply #17 on: July 23, 2013, 01:42:37 AM »
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does a 'normal' person roam the dark areas risking limb and property in pursuit of an image, an image that will bring no financial return?

Yes. It became obvious with the generalization of the Internet, but people were risking limb and property in pursuit of images for no financial return before the advent of the Internet. There are probably quite a few other Vivian Maier waiting to be discovered.
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Rob C
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« Reply #18 on: July 23, 2013, 01:45:50 PM »
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Yes. It became obvious with the generalization of the Internet, but people were risking limb and property in pursuit of images for no financial return before the advent of the Internet. There are probably quite a few other Vivian Maier waiting to be discovered.


I don't question that she had competition, I question the 'normality' of those who do such risky things without some monetary reward.

Doing risky things for kicks alone seems to fly in the face of common sense.

Rob C
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Isaac
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« Reply #19 on: July 23, 2013, 02:34:26 PM »
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At what point does driven become "nuts" ?

Quote
"The rat refers to the voracious creature gnawing at a person's stomach from the inside that drives him or her to repeatedly leave the comforts and security of civilized life to challenge him or herself in the natural world. Without a big rat, a person stays at home with the family and is content to be a shopkeeper."

"The Size of the Rat" p36-37 in "Galen Rowell's Inner Game of Outdoor Photography"

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