Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Maier Conundrum(s)

Recently, Petapixel linked to a couple of items of note concerning Vivian Maier, the more mundane of the two concerned this post from The Online Darkroom:

Vivian's photography is of a standard that I imagine I or most readers could have produced given the same opportunity...    
-Bruce Robbins

I think the key word in that statement is "imagine;" anyone's free to imagine they're as good as anyone else. No, she's not HCB. but she definitely deserves every accolade she's earned for the plethora of quality images she created in a time when such artistry was not exactly plentiful. Certain photo critics, historians and gallerists will snub her talent and/or work due to the lack of original prints, and don't take into account the most obvious of factors- how on earth was she then able to assess and improve her work without actually seeing it? And yet, that's exactly what she did- that alone is some unique kind of extraordinary genius in and of itself! Ironically, no one snubs HCB for not doing his own printing.

The author then goes on to assert that she must have had money to burn since she owned a Rolleiflex and shot a lot of film. Huh??? Maybe that's why she couldn't afford (to make) prints, she saved every penny of her meager nanny's salary to acquire basic, but top notch shooting equipment- and simply had to sacrifice on the other end. Not that hard to figure, especially if you've had to live on a tight budget- something's gotta give...

One of the main problems with Ms. Maier is that her extraordinary life story sometimes tends to trump her incredible legacy of work and talent- both are equally remarkable. Interestingly, would we know anything of an HCB, or Eggleston, or... if they hadn't been born into $$$?


The other issue, the one of considerably greater concern, is found within this article in the NY Times. This is where the Maier saga finally transforms into modern day, capitalist horror story via hostile takeover courtesy of none other than that classic 19th century villain reassuming his rightful position as 21st century scum of the earth. Enter (the oh so appropriately named) Mr. Deal, lawyer and leech of the lowest order, crawling in after the fact, seeking whatever crumbs he can wrest free and acquire. 

In truth, it was the one and only factor that has been missing from this fairy tale of art and longing- up until now we haven't had a real villain, a true foil to Maier's innocence and Maloof's quest to anoint her. The stage is set, the final act has commenced, as bullshit writ large strides in demanding its cut of money and notoriety. This chapter will only add to the legend; unfortunately, when lawyers ride in on the back of the law, the conclusion can be anything but happy.

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