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Thursday, 21 November 2013


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I felt a little ambiguous towards this book when I first heard about it because, to me, the concept smacked of more capitalization on the Vivian Maier story rather than it being about the photography. I just wasn't sure that these types of shots (reflections, shadow, etc.) merited an entire book (it is not like it is a new concept *at this point in time*). After seeing some of the photos, though, I have to say they are good and often original. I don't think I'll run out to buy the book but I was certainly unfair in my initial assessment.

Proof that photography does not have to be exhibited to be loved and appreciated. Vivian Maier was the consummate street photographer. (I do wonder how a nanny could afford that Rollei!)
Her work is an anthem (or perhaps requiem) for to the art of taking pictures.
My two pesos.

I think this is an issue of copyright as none of the current 'owners' have have express consent of the artist. From my mere understanding the law barely says that mere ownership of -for example a negative- does not convey any right to the copyright in that picture.

I had this on pre-order so my copy arrived the other day. I strongly recommend it and consider it well worth the price.

I too find Vivian's work to be very good and the more I spend time looking at her images the more I am impressed. There are a number of her images that I find very compelling. I believe her introverted nature made her a very good observer, and she was uniquely equipped to capture her observations on film.

"with a smattering of images taken by others with Maier's camera."

They rather challenge the title of the book.

I've had a look at the images in the book and it struck me that about five of the images looked like they were taken by someone else. At the very least someone else would have to have set the shutter e.g. the mirror shot with a workman holding the mirror angled off to include Vivian Meyer in the reflection.

This shots are perhaps more important than the "selfies" as the "standard model" for Vivian Meyer is as a loner but clearly some of the time she went out photographing with others (even if they borrowed her camera). Clearly a shot taken by someone else isn't a "selfie" even if you've been loaned the camera. They also make copyright issues around VMs work even more interesting (copyright goes with the shutter push absent any other contract). I'd love to see the contact sheet around these shots for context.

The other thing raised by the book (and talked about in the essay) is the number of different camera types Vivian Meyer used. In addition to the Rolliflex everyone associated with here were at least two Leica's, a Kodak rangefinder and a Zeiss Ikon (and probably some more I've forgotten about!).

My comment is OT but may be interesting?

According to the ABC (Australia) the Oxford Dictionary has nominated the term "selfie" as its word of the year.

Here is the story about the first officially recognised use of the word and the image:


At the risk of never being forgiven, the holotype image pays "lip service" to self portraiture.

My partner was in Budapest this time last year and came across an exhibition of a photographers work.

On returning she described the work and the impression that it made on her but couldn't remember the artists name. Based on her description we quickly nailed it down to Vivian Maier.

Such is the strength and character of Vivian's work.

I should also add that if you go to this show you might well want to cross the street to see the Emmet Gowan show at Pace MacGill.
Certainly nothing as strong as his early work, but worth checking in on a guy who has a good eye.
Photographs of Andalusia from the air vs. Edith back in the early 1970s.
There might be stuff in the area that is also worthy, but I have to drive home in the morning.

Just saw the movie "Finding Vivian Maier" tonight. Great detective work showing who Vivian Maier really was, as recounted by the people she touched along the way. Go see it if you get a chance.

finally something i can afford ($30) on top.

OK, I don't really want to detract from this interesting review, but everyone has their own little pet semantic peeves, and one of mine is "exponential" or "exponentially", as in:

"But I'm delighted to report that the print quality of images in this book, which is also published by PowerHouse, is exponentially superior to that 2011 book."

If the quality of images is increasing exponentially in a series of books, that would mean, for instance, that if the second book is 10 times better than the first, then the third book would be 10 times better than the second; and the fourth ten times better than the third. If you only have two books to compare, there is no way to tell if the quality is increasing exponentially, linearly, logarithmically or in some other fashion. (disregarding the problem of measuring quality . . .)

The factor of 10 is not important; an increase by a factor of 2 with each increment is also an exponential change. For instance, the amount of light passed by a lens changes exponentially with each change in f number (in theory, at least).

Rant finished!

Thanks for your patience,


I enjoyed reading David's rant.

Another plug for Maloof's documentary, "Finding Vivian Maier," which I saw last week. I knew I'd enjoy it but it was even better than I had anticipated. Highly recommended.

@ David: I measured the difference. It's "exponential". Send me money and I'll send you the precise exponent. ;->

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