She worked as a nanny and she may be one of the greatest street photographers of the mid 20th Century.

She was an enigmatic woman who took pictures in synchronicity with the time and flavor of Robert Frank.  But she didn’t seem to print any of her work, it all being left as part of “the wheel” that turns after death eventually to be bought at auction by an unsuspecting 20-something.   She used a Roloflex and must have been able to use this complex camera fast.

“Vivian came here from France in the early 1930’s and worked in a sweat shop in New York when she was about 11 or 12. She was not Jewish but a Catholic, or as they said, an anti-Catholic. She was a Socialist, a Feminist, a movie critic, and a tell-it-like-it-is type of person. She learned English by going to theaters, which she loved. She wore a men’s jacket, men’s shoes and a large hat most of the time. She was constantly taking pictures, which she didn’t show anyone”.

~ from the blog site of John Maloof the man who bought about ninety-percent of her 100,000 negatives.

10-minute video documentary on Vivian Maier.

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foodchain
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foodchain

Hi Questina. The range in these photos is wonderful==not just contrasts but everything! What a gift of art

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SallyT
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Q, I enjoyed these very much! Thank you for sharing and introducing her to me. The shadows and shapes only really appear in black and white. I think I can count on one hand the shots I have gotten that are worth showing anyone. Of course, they were purely accidents/luck. Nothing based on skill. It is a shame that she didn’t see her work appreciated.

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SueInCa
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Q
thanks for sharing these. I love black and white photography. When I was taking photography we went to take pictures of US Steele at night. By using a tripod and different f stops you can create some really amazing photography. I have always preferred black and white to color. Something about the starkness of it seems to capture the subject more clearly or can put the subject in shadows as well. Of course I never used the type of camera she was using and am not sure how good I might have been not using the modern convenience of 35mm cameras. I enjoy looking at different photographer’s works. Dorothea Lange, Robert Frank, Margaret Bourke-White were all great photographers.

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choicelady
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Well Sue! I never knew that about you! I helped document one of Bethlehem Steel’s plants, so we share that interest. We;ll talk about it soon I hope!

Her work is stunning. She reminds me a bit of Louis Hine (though her work is somewhat better quality due to better equipment) and especially of Milton Rogovin, a Buffalo, NY photographer who did studies of the lower west side of the city, Black churches, miners around the world, and yes, steelworkers. He died last year, age 103. He photographed almost to the end.

Her work is rich in its honoring of the people in her photographs just as they are. The light is gorgeous, but the people are all very differently recorded, and that’s unusual. Some look straight on, some are inert, some don’t even know she’s there. That is extremely unusual in what is essentially a portrait photographer, albeit more like Rogovin’s work, ordinary people. Unlike him, she treats each subject as unique and reveals that in the highly different poses. Very interesting woman, very unusual eye.

Thank you, Ques, for sharing this. I’d briefly heard about her on the radio, but I never have seen her work before. This is a real gift to us!

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AdLib
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Q, these are marvelous! And what a remarkable story of the artist.

Hope it’s okay to have this excuse for sharing one of my favorite photographers, Elliot Erwitt:

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choicelady
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I love the little boy and baugettes on the bicycle! Really HATE the little boy and the gun – given the time, it’s a gut wrenching reminder of lynchings. Not sure what lies in the photographer’s mind! Creepy – and probably exactly the point?

Some of this feels very much like Magritte’s surrealist paintings. Amazing stuff. Thank you, AdLib!

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AdLib
Admin

Elliot Erwitt is a brilliant photographer with both an incisive and playful/comedic eye.

Indeed, the point of the child with the gun was very much what you felt, IMO.

And I too love the surrealist sensibility of Erwitt! So pleased to share one of my faves with you and others.

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Khirad
Member

I despise photographic geniuses. I try, but some are just born with a whole different eye to the world. Sure, there’s superior technique, and a knack for timing, but that can’t make up for inborn genius. And the lighting and reflection off the puddles – I’ve never been able to pull that off just right. Takes messing with aperture, film speed and all that stuff on a 35mm, and I still haven’t really figured out all the bells and whistles of my digital – let alone how to work them quickly at a moment’s notice. One day I’d like to shoot black and white again. There’s just something about a darkroom and the stank of the processing chemicals that take me back to a good place.

The shadow man’s hat (I assume to be her own) hovering before the bikini clad woman was ominous, and many of the rest had a sad, beaten elegance to them. And to consider this was all without darkroom magic, but straight off the roll?!

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choicelady
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Khirad – as one who remembers well your smashing photos from your long and wonderful trip, I’d not be so hard on you!

One of the key differences is depth of field. Modern cameras just do not have it, and digital is worse. I worked with a government documentary photographer who carried an old plate tripod-mounted camera because no other would give him the richness of detail in a complex setting. He was documenting historic industrial sites (Jet Lowe is his name – you can still buy his only book I think) and needed that detail. So don’t dis yourself – think about finding an older camera with a deeper field, then go black and white, too.

But first – find someone who knows how to develop pictures! Or learn to do it yourself. Even I can, and I pretty much suck at everything technical! Developing and printing is as much fun as the taking, IMHO.

Working with longer lenses and older cameras gives you a huge range of opportunities to play with all that – light, depth of field, texture. Try it! You’ll find it’s an entirely different experience. And as wonderful as you were with the color photos, you’ll be boffo with the B&W and the right camera.

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escribacat
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Gorgeous photos, Q. Thanks. I’ve never heard of her before. I’m curious — why do you think she’s like Dickinson? I also have a confession — I’m an English major (MFA as well) and Dickinson is one poet that I have never grasped. I’ve read her poetry, thinking maybe there’s some missing link in my brain that makes me unable to get her. But I try and I still can’t make head or tails out of her poetry. But these photographs, I get viscerally.

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Khirad
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I always liked much of her stuff, especially “One need not be a Chamber — to be Haunted”. It’s kind of too dark for today though.

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Chernynkaya
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E’cat, I never entirely “got” Dickenson either. But I think Q’s reference has to do with the fact that bulk of Dickenson’s work was only published after her death, as was this artist’s.

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PatsyT
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Thank you Q!
It is wonderful to see proof that the creative sprit can thrive under so many circumstances.
Beautiful, fascinating, important images.
We needed this today.

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kesmarn
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This Is My Letter To The World

This is my letter to the world,
That never wrote to me,–
The simple news that Nature told,
With tender majesty.
Her message is committed
To hands I cannot see;
For love of her, sweet countrymen,
Judge tenderly of me!

Is it just me or is there something of a physical resemblance, too?

[img]http://amusejanetmason.com/all%20images/Emily_Dickenson.gif[/img]

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Khirad
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Classic. I can’t explain why, but her poems have their own internal harmony. They’re just brilliant. I mean, their was a general 8-6-8-6 thing going on but a really subtle fluidity to it that transcends normal rules.

In the same way that you can’t always pinpoint just what it is that makes a photograph excellent.

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Chernynkaya
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Gee! Thank you, Q, for bringing Maier’s work to my attention–I’d never seen it before! I love street photography, and she has a touch of the Arbus in her too, doesn’t she? But just a touch. I like the sleeping fellows and that masterpiece of the man walking with two kids.

I confess. I have the Dickensian fantasy that all my work will be acclaimed posthumously, since I’m too chicken to show it or publish it now.

[note to son and husband!]

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whatsthatsound
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btw, Cher and Q, I’m pretty sure the walkway in the picture you mention is Riverside Park, which runs along the Hudson River on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. I used to take that walk from my apartment to my boss’ place in the morning and back in the evening. Always a joy.

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Chernynkaya
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I thought so, WTS, but wasn’t sure. Thanks!

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whatsthatsound
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don’t quote me! I’m only about ninety percent sure. Watch it turn out to be Brooklyn or some place….
🙂

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kesmarn
Admin

I spent many a day with a good friend on Claremont, WTS, about a block from Broadway, not far from 111th. I know the area fairly well.

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whatsthatsound
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Interesting, Kes. It’s a great section of America, I came to prefer Riverside Park even to Central Park, because I spent so much time there.

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kesmarn
Admin

Yes, WTS, the area isn’t upscale, but not really seedy, either. And folks of almost every nationality have settled there. Everything is extremely accessible. Not only do you not need a car; it’s an absolute liability. As you say, it’s a great section of America.

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whatsthatsound
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