Vivian Maier (February 1, 1926 – April 21, 2009)
It is incredible to think, as I write this little piece about a once prolific and talented photographer, that there are those in photography today, who still refuse to accept Vivian Maier deserves her place amongst the greats. But they do. I can only imagine how many more great photos she would have taken with today’s equipment, considering the lack of money needed to run a camera once bought. To put it in perspective, Diane Arbus took over 7,000 photos and in one afternoon took 12. Maier must have over 200,000 photographs and videos. Considering how many are useable, this alone should earn her a little more respect.
She was however an Amateur, similar to yourself, so she is someone you should consider a role model when it comes to Street Photography. She was an ‘opportunist’, a photographer who takes shots as they appear, as opposed to a ‘documentarian’ who is doing it for a project or a reason. She was also a social commentator, recording through her photos the lives people lived at the lower end of society.
I think she did want to be known, she wanted her photographs turned in to postcards and this is always a sign someone who wants to check out the viability of the industry. There is no doubt she chose her job well. It would have to be something which gave her the time to do what she loved, getting her out during the day which gave her the natural light. Cameras created very grainy pictures at night back then in the 1950’s, and as a student of the game she would have known Brassai held the untouchable title of Night Phantom, so I think with her budget and knowledge this suited her best.
She definitely wanted to take her hobby serious, and bought a number of Rolleiflexes over the years, after starting off with a Box Brownie. I believe she always felt she may return to her storage and shoot late in to her years, otherwise, short of cash, why not sell your cameras. I think it’s unbearably sad, that after some her photos were to be put up online in 2008, considering she was not to pass away till 2009, no one was able to contact her to show her how people loved what she did.
Camera: Kodak Brownie Box Camera, Rolleiflex, Rolleiflex 3.5T, Rolleiflex 3.5F, Rolleiflex 2.8C, Rolleiflex Automat
Where they worked: New York, Chicago, world tour of a few other countries
Strengths: She had the uncanny and natural ability of always being in the right place at the right time
Weaknesses: I am sure she would crop from the top given today’s software, but she did take a lot of photos with poor composition
Quote: “We have to make room for other people. It’s a wheel – you get on, you go to the end, and someone else has the same opportunity to go to the end, and so on, and somebody else takes their place.”