Er, well, sorry for the tasteless headline. But there's news: evidently a reasonable (?) settlement is in the offing in the lawsuit over Vivian Maier's legacy.
As the Chicago Tribune article that is the source for this news blip puts it:
The probate case that has played out in Chicago has added another layer of intrigue to Maier's story. At the center of the case is an unusual situation: A woman who died virtually penniless and without any clear heirs now has an estate potentially worth millions of dollars. But while the estate has the copyrights to Maier's work, others legally own the film itself.
Personally, I'm a fan of John Maloof. He's Vivian's collaborator, and he's done an amazing job of bringing her work to life. People who think "those publishing Maier's work [are] profiteers who circumvented well-established copyright law and manipulated Maier's story for their own gain" are idiots—what would they rather, that the raw material just go from the storage locker to the landfill? Would justice be better served that way, for the woman or her work? Bah.
The art world can't wrap its tiny pointed encephalitic head around this story, because it doesn't fit their ruling ideologies. Vivian didn't redact her own work; she had no influence on her contemporaries; therefore she's beyond the pale. Not important. Not an artist.
Double bah. She is who she is and no one else is. It's a unique story, and perfectly amazing, and the book some literate scholar eventually writes about the whole thing will be a unique and wonderful chapter in the history of photography...21st-century photography. (In fact, there is a book to be written about rediscovered and "rescued" photographers in general, starting with Eugene Atget and including people like Vivian Maier and Robert Bergman.) And trying to detect distant, tenuous heirs that have even less right to the work than its rescuers is a ridiculous travesty of the principles behind the concept of inheritance. We're not talking about the crown of a realm.
Vivian's done her part. It's easy to feel she didn't get justice but she was effectively a recluse; she didn't want attention. She's gone and her wishes can't be known.
TOP says: FREE JOHN MALOOF. (And the Goldstein/Bulger holders of Maieriana.) Paint it on a protest sign. Let the work live; let the work breathe. Like VM herself, it belongs to the Universe now.
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Chris Y.: "I was just talking to a friend about VM at lunch. To me, Maloof’s work is not academic enough. His movie deals with her basic bio and what kind of person she was, yes, disturbed, lonely, paranoid, hostile, strongly independent, indecipherable, whatever. But that describes many people, artists particularly. The movie doesn’t really talk about her as an artist enough- we saw her early pictures of the French countryside, and her later pictures of Chicago and New York, but how did she get from the former to the later? They very first time I saw VMs pictures, the first year she was 'out,' my eyes told me 'there’s Walker Evans, there’s Berenice Abbott, there’s Robert Frank, there’s Aaron Siskind'…you could see an influence study in almost every shot. You could see someone striving for perfection, someone trying to learn the photographic language of the times at the highest level.
"I am not saying she copied people, I am saying that she experimented with styles that she saw and admired, the same as we all do. As a result, she did so much work on her own style and taste that you can pretty much pick out a VM picture from a lineup of period or genre photographs.
"I am more thankful for the work of Pamela Bannos from Northwestern University, another independent researcher fascinated by Maier. I hope someday that she finds the wherewithal to create an 'American Masters' type of documentary about the artistic development of VM, rather than one focused on her as a 'gifted oddball'….
"Bannos’s work is called 'Vivian Maier’s Fractured Archive,' and it’s kind of fractured itself but well worth clicking around."