If there is something that we as a society love, it’s curious stories and surprising discoveries. In the international photographic scene, after the acclaimed documentary “Finding Vivian Maier” was released, she and her photography were both: a character with a very curious story and certainly a discovery.
Anyone passionate about street photography knows that Vivian Maier was a good photographer. As far as technique and composition etc. go, there is not much doubt about it, nor with regards to her content which embodies everyday life: the soul of street photography.
However, if you start to investigate her character and more importantly, what has been done with her photography, you begin to see that there are discrepancies in terms of the quality of her work as a photographer, and that is what I want to talk about in this article.
“She redefined street photography”
The terms “redefine” or “revolutionise” are terms that, in my opinion, are overused or, better said, misused. Was Vivian Maier a good photographer? Definitely. Is her work revolutionary? I do not know, and I’m afraid I will never know because her legend is the product of a curious story and a character that others have created, not because of her work. And here lies the problem lies. She, as a creator, never had the opportunity (that we know of) to edit her own work and that, for any photographer, is key because we all have the right to do so or to delegate that responsibility to someone we trust.
The quality of a body of work can be destroyed by our worst photo and that is why throughout history, as creators, we have decided which works we show and which ones we choose not to show. Someone who does not know us at all can’t possibly know what our vision is.
In Maier’s case, it was the two people who bought her entire body of work that did the editing, favouring the commercial output of her character over the consistency and quality of her work.
Vivian Maier, John Maloof Collection
Vivian Maier, Jeffrey Goldstein Collection
So, did she redefine street photography?
In a sense, I think so. Her story has shown that anyone (even a nanny) who wishes to go out and document life, can, and for those of us who love this way of expression, it’s a great thing.
As for the part in which her photography is concerned… I do not know nor will I ever know and it’s a shame, because I personally am a big fan of her work, or part of it at least.
Perhaps that part of which I’m a fan of is the one that she would have chosen to show the world.
Two of the people who have the most amount of Maier’s work are Jeffrey Goldstein and John Maloof. If you want, go to their respective web pages and see how each of them have edited her work and after taking a good look, let me know what you think!
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