Everybody digs street photography…

… as long as the images are from Vivian Maier.

Actually it looks that the buzz around Vivian Maier shows how much most people’s conception of street photography seems to be frozen in black & white time, at a period around the late 50’s. This is one of the reason why I wrote this series of posts about Vivian Maier because as much premature as it is to do a serious analysis of the work, it seems to me obvious that Vivian Maier’s work is well rooted in its time and does not embrace the further evolution of the genre. Nothing wrong with that, and how could that be otherwise by the way. But street photography is little like jazz, or classical music for most people. There is a breaking point in time when you have to “get it” and it stops to remain a popular genre. Instead it is left to a handful of aficionados, and becomes more and more hermetic to others. That is just the way it is…

 

Photograph by Vivian Maier

For that respect the recent discovery of Vivian Maier’s work offers an insight onto the gap that sets most contemporary street photographers apart from the main public. The irony of the situation is that Vivian Maier posthumous fame has its origin in the heart of the contemporary street photography ecosystem (it all started here), but finally I believe that as soon as the story really took off (beginning of this year) it has started to cause more prejudice to the genre than it does serve it.

 

Photograph by Martin Kollar

Don’t get me wrong, I am all for the acknowledgment of Maier’s work, but we are in a singular time capsule sort-of situation here. And the people who like the work, those who usually don’t care much about the genre should ask themselves why and what they find is so much compelling therein. And those who feel there is some genuine merit in the photographs on their own right they should ask themselves how that could be transposed today. I mean: what is the fuel of all that ?

… there are lots of Vivian Maier out there today.

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3 thoughts on “Everybody digs street photography…

  1. As I see it, her story is a mix of our generation’s nostalgia and longing for a true fairy-tale. Not at all a bad thing that the the tomb of King Tut of our days is a stack of old photographs, however.
    Even in me, as a non-US photographer looking at the hype with an outsider’s eyes, her work awakes a certain nostalgia – for a period when photography was an easier business, without all the ethical and legal repercussions so characteristic to our litigation societies.

  2. Hello

    What attracts me is her personal involvement with her subjects which is exciting, along with the simple enjoyment of creative compositions (seeing through her eyes, back in time too). The regular self-portraits add to the whole and since it’s a posthumous revelation it’s like peeking into a found diary filled with intriguing stories.

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