Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Everyone Loves Maier!

 Photo: Vivian Maier

It's been quite the ride- from the complete obscurity of an anonymous, somewhat eccentric nanny, to the very public debate of exactly where she fits in the pantheon of photographic history! The fairy tale story of Vivian Maier has captivated our imagination, already stirred controversy... and fueled the secret, smoldering aspirations of unknown and unheralded photographers everywhere. A grand art coup still in the making.

While some may wonder how many more unknown Maiers are out there locked in attics and basements, I'm betting extremely few, particularly of her caliber- the depth and measure of which we are still discovering as we speak. Sure, photos from back in the day will continue to fascinate and be found- but rarely of this aesthetic quality. And while her "style" definitely registers the aesthetics of her day, half a century later, they still manage to look fresh, insightful- smart. There's a very pronounced human connection in her work: empathetic, all embracing, and yet, one also gets the feel of a very practiced and selective chronicler of her observations. A very refined eye- particularly for her time.

 Photo: Vivian Maier

I don't know how her later work will hold up, from the description thus far (somewhat more abstract), I don't think it will hold up as strongly (for me, personally) as her work from the fifties and early sixties- we'll just have to wait and see. But I've already seen enough to profess my utmost respect and admiration. And it has been a joy to share in the process of discovery along with Mr. Maloof, from "the first few lucky snapshots," to an already substantial body of work that has captured the imagination of the photography world a full half century later.

Point is, this has been such an incredible breath of fresh air from the usual art beat in photography- for a variety of reasons. An artist that apparently never promoted herself in the least while alive- can you imagine? Even Van Gogh desperately sought the elusive fame game. And her number one promoter is a complete and total outsider who must now navigate (and no doubt battle) the powers that be in the established art world to secure both her legacy, and his own association to her work. Those who discovered Atget, Belloq and Disfarmer were all photo insiders already familiar with the treacherous currents of the art world.

I wish both Mr. Maloof and Ms. Maier continued luck, and I will continue to follow their progress and development. I can't wait for the book and will hopefully get to see the prints in the not too distant future. The release of the documentary film will no doubt release her name and talent unto the public at large- an occurrence the elusive Ms. Maier probably could not foresee in her wildest imaginings. And in so doing, will perhaps inspire oh so many others forever toiling on the pennies of anonymity to keep dreaming, creating, living...

 Photo: Vivian Maier