What do you do with your photographs? Leave them on the stick? Photo albums? Hard drives? Or Cardboard boxes? Vivian Maier took over 100,000 photos in her lifetime. The negatives and undeveloped rolls of film from her Rolleiflex, Leica and Super 8 and 16 mm cameras were found in cardboard boxes. A handful of Vivian Maier’s images of street life photography are the current exhibit until January 16, 2022 at the Musée du Luxembourg in Paris. To the world of renowned photographers, she did not exist. To the children of three different families, she was the Nanny. Vivian Maier is the photographer found. She was finally found in 2007 in Chicago, and died two years later. To visit live or virtually, I highly recommend downloading the RMN-ML exhibition application , yours to keep, and the Vivian Maier exhibition leaflet .
Why Is Vivian Maier Important?
Vivian Maier tells a story of her time. “At the heart of American society, whether in New York from 1951 or Chicago from 1956, she meticulously observed the urban fabric that was already beginning to reflect the major socio-political shift-changes in its history…. This exhibition shines a new light on the dense and singular production that earned this “amateur” photographer a place in the history of photography alongside such towering figures as Robert Frank, Diane Arbus, Robert Doisneau and Henri Cartier-Bresson.” (Extract is from the exhibition leaflet.)
What You Will See in the Photographer Found?
The archive is a collection of stories from multiple angles. Those on display capture the reflections of her street life observations. She walked right up to people on the street for a photo. Some are faces of willing subjects, with whom she had an exchange of information, from all walks of life and neighborhoods and others caught by surprise or no exchange of words, look into her lens with various emotions. She was conscious of gestures, like pulling on a stocking or detail like the bound legs or stockings gathering about the ankle.
The exhibit has nine sections and begins with numerous self-portraits using mirrors and window reflections. The reflections capture much more than a self-portrait. The man reading the newspaper, the children looking at you from the car window were tightly cropped originally in the 1960’s. The 21st century eyes of Maier’s founder, John Maloof, rethink her earlier cropping to capture more of a scene and more of the photo’s essence with the new framing.
Vivian Maier developed an interest in the world of children while working as a nanny for 40 years for three different families. Her photos show her fascination with their communication style or how they handled child-to-child situations. She shot images from their points of view, giving us a view how children view the world around them.
How was Vivian Maier Found?
John Maloof saved Vivian Maier’s collection when he happened to attend a thrift store auction in Chicago. The storage unit was put on the market in 2007. He paid about 380 USD for the contents from the 1950s to the 1980s, which included about 700 undeveloped film canisters, prints and negatives from France, New York City and Chicago.
The tagline of the Vivian Maier website is “A riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma”. The children she nannied for were unaware of the contents or the extent of her talent until contacted after the sale. This lends to a rhetorical question in my mind: How many women artists through time fit the similar description of an enigma based on their life history’s circumstances.
Enjoy Vivian Maier’s art of street hotography exhibit live or with the audio guide. And be inspired.
Application for current exhibit “rmn-musée du luxembourg” in your phone’s app store.
Trailer video of the exhibition gives a quick overview
Documentary “Finding Vivian Maier Festival 2013“
Vivian Maier website http://www.vivianmaier.com
Man Ray: Fashion Photographer Scroll down for the leaflet (in English)
Women Painters, 1780-1830, The birth of a battle Scroll down for the leaflet (in French) and teaching guide.