Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Every Picture Tells a Story

Incredible documentary on the BBC last night about an amateur photographer called Vivian Maier.

Vivan Maier was born in New York in the 1920s and mainly lived in New York and Chicago with occasional trips back to her home country of France during her lifetime. In that time she made her living as a nanny but in her spare time she took photographs.

The photographs she took were apparently for her own personal interest and pursuit of her hobby. They were mainly either street portrait photography or pictures of the families she worked with. She never showed them to anyone. She had her negatives developed when she could afford to but often it seems she could not.

She was, by all accounts a rather stern and reclusive person who in later life was often just considered an eccentric. Her early life as it is currently understood would certainly explain why she might have a few demons to deal with.

Over the years she accumulated a massive amount of pictures and, being in a transient profession with no permanent home, she kept them in rented storage lockers.

Eventually she could no longer afford to pay the rent on the lockers and, just as you see in the TV shows, the contents of the lockers were sold off unseen in public auctions.

It can only be by some fluke that somebody noticed the quality of the old photographs amongst all the other things that had been accumulated by a now elderly lady. She was apparently a hoarder so the lockers were filled with a lot of other stuff.

People have tried to piece together her secretive life in retrospect. She appears to have been self-taught although she did know some photographers in her early life who almost certainly would have helped and influenced her.

Have a look at some of her pictures here - they look spontaneous (which is of course their genius) but it seems to be generally agreed they would have been carefully considered and thought out by an expert photographer who truly understood her art.

The BBC programme is here - watch it if you have only the slightest interest in photography.

She died in 2009 only a couple of years after her first photographs were discovered and by the time she died it seems her work was only just starting to gain recognition.