Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Vivian Maier -- one of America's greatest treasures.

Yesterday, I received a book in the mail--"Vivian Maier. Out of the shadows" by Richard Cahan and Michael Williams. After reading the text and devouring her amazing photographs, I can say that few photography books have moved me the way this book has.  The horrific idea that her work could easily have gone completely unnoticed, unappreciated, and tossed away had the wrong people bought out the items from her storage locker isn't a thought singular to me.
I first remember reading about finding Vivian's extraordinary cache of images a few years ago.  My initial thought was that her images were really good.  However, were the ones I was seeing just the cream of the crop, with hundreds of lesser ones predominating?  FHer images are empathic, thoughtful, and most of all, engaging, and good.  The authors state that her consistency of many "keepers" per contact sheet is proof that she knew exactly what she was doing, and stand as a testament to her talent.

I went to Chicago in March 2011 to see the Maloof exhibit at the Chicago Cultural Center, which was very moving.  The images were wonderful.  They even had some of her cameras and hats on exhibit.  Take any street photographer that's famous, and Vivian is right there in the quality of her seeing, and her craft.

By now, anyone following the Vivian Maier story must know that there are two collections of her work, with John Maloof owning about 95% of the negatives and associated materials.  The smaller portion -- still substantial, by any means, belongs to Jeffrey Goldstein with 20,000+ negatives.  I can't wrap my head around that much shooting of a Rolleiflex.  That is a LOT of film.  This book is based upon the Goldstein collection, and Cahan and Williams have put together a narrative that follows the arc of Vivian's life, and the people that she touched.  Vivian was "eccentric" to the families that she worked for, but it is apparent from the interviews that many of the children she watched regarded her as a sort of Mary Poppins.   Vivian's images aren't just shots of a time lost, but a celebration of everyday life, with all its warts and smiles.   The images in Vivian Maier - Out of the Shadows very nearly brought tears to my eyes--partly from the beauty and empathy of her images, but also from the realization that she did this for her own reasons, and that we are so much richer from being able to see what she saw.  I have not previously been moved by a photographic book as much as I have by this one.

If you love good photography, an engaging story, and most of all, appreciate the work and execution that is needed for excellent street photography, you will love this book.  If you love the essence of humanity, you will love this book.  If you love b&w square format photos, well... you will love this book.

Vivian Maier - Out of the Shadows is available online from City Files Press  for $50.   She is not only out of the shadows, she has cast her own across the streets of Chicago, New York, and wherever else she aimed her camera.

Vivian Maier -- Out of the Shadows by Richard Cahan and Michael Williams, 2012. City Files Press, Chicago.

Hardcover: 288 pages; 105lb paper + flood varnish with over 300 duotone images
ISBN: 9780978545093
Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 9 x 1.25 inches


tf700t review said...

YES, I have this book for several days ago. I like this Vivian Maier. Out of the shadows" by Richard Cahan and Michael Williams

Trevor David Betts said...

A very talented documentary photographer. May I take this opportunity to wish you a very Merry Christmas and all the best for 2013.


Trevor David Betts.