The one in which David and Mark go off at a tangent even before the intro music, but manage to return for a lengthy chat about the work of Vivian Maier – and the issues surrounding the discovery and posthumous publication of her photographs.
Vivian Maier (1926 – 2009) was an extremely talented and interesting American street photographer, whose work has only recently come to light. From her Wikipedia page:
Maier worked for about forty years as a nanny, mostly in Chicago’s North Shore, pursuing photography during her spare time. She took more than 150,000 photographs during her lifetime, primarily of the people and architecture of Chicago, New York City, and Los Angeles, although she also traveled and photographed worldwide.
During her lifetime, Maier’s photographs were unknown and unpublished; many of her negatives were never printed. A Chicago collector, John Maloof, acquired some of Maier’s photos in 2007, while two other Chicago-based collectors, Ron Slattery and Randy Prow, also found some of Maier’s prints and negatives in her boxes and suitcases around the same time. Maier’s photographs were first published on the Internet in July 2008, by Slattery, but the work received little response. In October 2009, Maloof linked his blog to a selection of Maier’s photographs on the image-sharing website Flickr, and the results went viral, with thousands of people expressing interest. Maier’s work subsequently attracted critical acclaim, and since then, Maier’s photographs have been exhibited around the world.
Find Vivian Maier
John Maloof turned Miss Maier’s work and life, and his discovery of her images, into an Oscar-nominated documentary called Finding Vivian Maier (2013). This is an excellent place to start if you’re not familiar with Vivian Maier and her fascinating life.
There is also a BBC documentary on the same subject, made the same year, which provides a slightly different take on things. Both are well worth watching.
There’s also a short talk on Miss Maier by Ira Glass (This American Life) entitled Invisible Made Visible.
The focus of a recent PhotoChilli Meetup in London was self-portraits, and Vivian Maier’s work provided some great examples. There are a large number of her self-portraits on the Vivian Maier website.
It’s always interesting to look at the contact sheets of photographers, to see how they worked a subject, and to see their ratio of ‘keepers’. Many of Vivian Maier’s contact strips are shown on her website, and reveal something of a visual diary.
Controversy / money always f**** s*** up
The story of Vivian Maier and the publication of her work is as controversial as it is fascinating, and throws up some interesting moral dilemmas, which we discuss in the podcast. There are also some (unresolved at the time of recording) legal issues about intellectual proprty and copyright ownership, which are examined in a very interesting article from Artsy.net in 2017, Why the Collectors Who Made Vivian Maier Famous Can’t Cash In on Her Work.
As always, we try to put the photos we discuss on our Pinterest page for this episode.
Podcast music credit: Extraordinaire by DJ Quads.