Vivian Maier, Street Photographer.

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Image photographed from the book

This is a beautiful book that presents solely black and white images. To me it has an Elliott Erwitt feel to it in some regards as there are many humorous images in there and some where the main subject are dogs.

It is apparent from this book that Maier was able to build up a good rapport with most people and was unafraid to photograph strangers. I imagine this to be very difficult given it was a man’s world she was living in. To me Maier is a pioneer for women photographers.

The title of the book gives the subjects away, but what is not clear is the natural ability she has for making what could be a boring image, become interesting. She clearly had a raw talent and one that understood basic photographic principles, without any formal training. How clever she was. There are a multitude of different photographic techniques in the book, which draw the viewer in, making you feel you are there, with the subject. Images portray humour, but also the hard nature of the life people around her had.

What I also like is that she does not stick to the white race. There are a number of photographers of the black population, at a time when the vile scurge of racism was still accepted as the norm in America. It is great to see her challenge the pure white photography issue. Very brave.

My favourite image from the book is included below.

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Image taken from :- Maloof, J (2011) Vivian Maier, Street Photographer, USA: powerhouse books.

There are  number of reasons why I like this image. I will list them below.

  • symmetry within the frame
  • being in the right place at the right time
  • the cleaner’s shop being in the background, with the two large men cleaning up
  • there are two burly men, dealing with someone who appears to be smaller in stature
  • the faces of those watching in the background
  • the photographer is a lady in a man’s world
  • this is night time flash photography, which is somewhat unusual
  • the cigarette held in one of the men’s mouths
  • I have a number of questions around this about the man?
    • What had he done?
    • Was he drunk?
    • Had he been fighting?
    • Was he being treated fairly?
    • Was he picked on due to his size?
    • What was he wairing a suit?
    • What was his name?
    • What was his job?
    • Where did he live?
    • Did Maier know anyone in the image?
    • How did she know where the action would be?
    • Was she safe on her own in the dark back streets?
    • How did she feel?

I could go on with the questions, as the image raises more questions than answers.

I feel the book is well worth a look and a handy addition to my collection. Maier was new to me, and I have enjoyed her work and will return to it time and again.

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