Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Vivian Maier: Street Photographer

The first published book of images photographed by street photographer Vivian Maier is now available.

The book arrived today from I had been waiting for it since last spring, when I pre-ordered it. It was worth the wait.

More than 125 pages of pictures never before published in a hardbound edition is a bargain at a retail price of $40. Amazon, as usual, offers a significant discount over the retail price.

I can't put this book down. The first image, opposite the title page, is a shadow silhouette of Ms. Maier, elbows out, with her hands apparently placed in front of her waist controlling the shutter of her twin lens reflex camera. The shape is unmistakably Vivian Maier. For her the shadow figure was not enough. A cluster of four dry leaves, blown on the sidewalk or recently fallen from a tree limb above, squarely rests over what would be her chest. The photographer's intent is unmistakably at work.

Exploring the interior of the book, the very next image after a brief introduction by John Maloof is another self-portrait, this time not just a clear image of the artist but also multiple reflections of the front and back of her head repeating toward infinity through two oppositely facing mirrors. An intense, piercing stare from a young woman penetrates through time and space. There is no smile.

Most of the photographs that follow are new to me. Several dozen or more of her pictures have been posted on the Vivian Maier website. Only a few of them make a reappearance in this book.

Maier the street photographer took numerous images of people, children at play, pedestrians walking, a few posed shots of individuals looking at the camera, mostly people who are apparently unaware they are being recorded by a world-class artist. Maier had an eye for timing and composition that possessed a sophistication that I envy.

Other pictures are of shapes, shadows, patterns, abstractions found in the cityscape. There is so much to learn from this master.

The book ends with six hauntingly magnetic images of the artist photographed as self-portraits, reflections in windows and mirrors.

Enormous gratitude must go to John Maloof for producing this treasure. I look forward to the feature-length film currently in production that will be the documentary.

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