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Eyes like a shutter, mind like a lens

09-03-2018

We all do it! We are constantly snapping pictures of everything, from great views, adventures, food and people around us. It's almost become second nature, to take a picture, capture the moment and instantly share it with others. Not everyone wants to share his or her moments, especially Vivien Maier!

We all do it! We are constantly snapping pictures of everything, from great views, adventures, food and people around us. It's almost become second nature, to take a picture, capture the moment and instantly share it with others. Not everyone wants to share his or her moments, especially Vivien Maier!

Vivien Maier - A Secret life

It was not until after her passing (New York, 1926 -2009) that her passion came to light when a forgotten trunk with 100,000 of her negatives was auctioned off. This was the introduction of the World to an unknown master of street photography, that some claim captured the true beautiful struggle of life in 20th Century USA.

Vivien Maier was a reclusive nanny that documented any and every moment of her life in New York, Chicago, France, South America and Asia. She photographed the interesting bits of urban America, from the erosion of landmarks for new development, to the unseen lives of the destitute and workings class. What makes her work unique was her ability to come close to an individual, cross into one’s personal space, infringe on their lives and capture their moment.

What adds to her story is the quality of her work that is easily comparable to famed contemporaries, the likes of Elliott Erwitt, Joel Sternfeld, Garry Winogrand, Joel Meyerowitz and Sally Mann. Not what you would expect from a fulltime professional nanny!

Different in all the right ways

Her character matched that of ‘Mary Poppins’ in many ways, she was eccentric, mysterious, free spirited, a proud soul and underestimated by many. Perhaps this uncanny similarity is what adds to the interest and allure of her story. With a modest camera, with only one shutter speed, no focus control, and no aperture dial she honed her skills, shooting photos in her leisure.

Vivian was decidedly unmaterialistic, stocking piling items she had come across on the streets, art books, newspapers and knick-knacks. What is shocking is that no one around her had ever seen her work nor known of her skill. She never spoke of a desire to create a living as a photographer but cultivated an air of ‘unknowability’ to separate herself from people. The masses of undeveloped negatives that she left behind suggests that she enjoyed the process as of it all, capturing the moment, the ability to press pause, as oppose to the final product.

Take a peek

Some will say that the mystery of it all is more interesting than the work itself. Only one way to find out! An Oscar nominated documentary ‘Finding Vivian Maier’ detailing the journey of the man who discovered her work and brought it to light is currently being shown at numerous Film Festivals this year. We recommend you go see it! http://www.findingvivianmaier.com/

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