Sunday, January 16, 2011

Wonder #1

Increasingly, the world is an open book. A rough draft of life as we'd like to live it. We now trade in the betrayal of people's secrets, modesty and privacy. Creativity is visible as it evolves, people's diaries lie open on the web, and social sharing demands a continual spill of information.

So, the story of Vivian Maier is a beautiful thing. Vivian was an intensely private woman who worked throughout her life as a nanny in Chicago. When she died in 2009 she left behind over a 100,000 negatives of photographs taken throughout her life. These images were prescient of 20th century photographic movements and her street photography is beyond belief. John Maloof, who discovered her negatives publishes them in a blog and is now working on a film about her life.* Spend some time with them. Although she may never have allowed the post-humous rupture to her privacy, her images are a world of their own that invites the deepest exploration.

The wonder of it...

An authorial glimpse...

all the above images are by Vivian Maier and are copyrighted under Maloof Collection.

*John Maloof, author of the blog and champion of her work explains:
"Some have suggested that I add more information on the story of Vivian's work and such. Here is what I know.

I acquired Vivian's negatives while at a furniture and antique auction. From what I know, the auction house acquired her belongings from her storage locker that was sold off due to delinquent payments. I didn't know what 'street photography' was when I purchased them.

It took me days to look through all of her work. It inspired me to pick up photography myself. Little by little, as I progressed as a photographer, I would revisit Vivian's negatives and I would "see" more in her work. I bought her same camera and took to the same streets soon to realize how difficult it was to make images of her caliber. I discovered the eye she had for photography through my own practice. Needless to say, I am attached to her work.

After some researching, I have only little information about Vivian. Central Camera (110 yr old camera shop in Chicago) has encountered Vivian from time to time when she would purchase film while out on the Chicago streets. From what they knew of her, they say she was a very "keep your distance from me" type of person but was also outspoken. She loved foreign films and didn't care much for American films.

Some of her photos have pictures of children and often times it was near a beach. I later found out she was a nanny for a family on the North Side whose children these most likely were. One of her obituaries states that she lived in Oak Park, a close Chicago suburb, but I later found that she lived in the Rogers Park neighborhood.

Out of the more than 100,000 negatives I have in the collection, about 20-30,000 negatives were still in rolls, undeveloped from the 1960's-1970's. I have been successfully developing these rolls. I must say, it's very exciting for me. Most of her negatives that were developed in sleeves have the date and location penciled in French (she had poor penmanship).

I found her name written with pencil on a photo-lab envelope. I decided to 'Google' her about a year after I purchased these only to find her obituary placed the day before my search. She passed only a couple of days before that inquiry on her.

I wanted to meet her in person well before I found her obituary but, the auction house had stated she was ill, so I didn't want to bother her. So many questions would have been answered if I had."

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