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Photo Finish

December 12, 2011
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I come out of my blogging semi-hiatus to post the oddest things, I know.  I keep promising that I’ll return to the substantive stuff when this @#$% dissertation is done.  At which time, I think I’ll first cash in my Delta Airlines voucher (acquired when I gave up my seat on an oversold flight last summer) to visit friends in NYC and see the Vivian Maier photography exhibit at the Howard Greenberg Gallery.

I have been fascinated by the Vivian Maier “discovery” since hearing about it on the CBS Evening News last year.  The short version is that John Maloof, a young realtor working on a book about Chicago, bought a box of undeveloped photo negatives at an estate sale hoping to find some interesting pictures for his book.  When he eventually began scanning the negatives and saw the quality of the photographer’s work, he contacted the auction house and tracked down the other boxes of negatives they’d sold – ending up with tens of thousands of negatives which he is now scanning and curating.  Read more here and here, and on the web site devoted to Maier’s work.

Maier’s photography was a hobby she indulged on her days off work as a nanny.  She took tens of thousands of pictures, and sometimes interviewed her subjects on a tape recorder.  She had a collection of books of other photographers’ works.  But apparently very little is known of her intentions for her own work.  A Chicago PBS affiliate tried to piece together more about Maier’s quiet life, and John Maloof – the realtor who “discovered” her – is working on a documentary about her.  Some of her photos have now been published in a book, Vivian Maier: Street Photographer, and some photos are now on exhibit in NYC and LA (following a maiden exhibition earlier this year at the Chicago Cultural Center).

In these days of digital cameras and digital post-production, when every pixel of a “photograph” can be manipulated, I have a whole new respect for the work of film photographers.  Kind of miss it, in fact.

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