Distance: 3 miles
Ciwt just returned from seeing a documentary about Vivian Maier, an exquisitely talented street photographer whose work was not found until after her death. Hers was a perfect melding of eye, heart, soul, equipment. And I might add interesting, photogenic times (basically the 50's and 60's in Chicago).
It is a service to anyone who likes - or might come to like - photography to bring her images to the world. One critic describes her work well: Maier’s images are truly stunning—vivid documents of the working class that are off-the-cuff yet rigorously composed, always capturing that enigmatic bit of her subject’s soul that leaves you in spine-tingled awe. (Even her self-portraits have the feel of someone who knows the perfect moment to click the shutter.)
In this way the movie, Finding Vivian Maier is to be lauded. It is also thought-provoking, interesting psychologically and historically among other areas. But to Ciwt there are also disturbing questions: the invasion of her life time of carefully guarded privacy not the least of them.
This seems to have been done in service of a (greedy) end run around the traditional art establishment. Art that has exposure, a history is more valuable. If it has been in museums, owned by famous people, included in art books, people and museums pay more for it. Museums especially have to be sure they are investing their funds in established places. A woman who died without anyone knowing anything about her or her photography, whose work was only found blindly by accident by someone bidding on unopened boxes certainly does not have that exposure.
Except now that the person who bought those boxes has made a movie about her. He and the gallery owners who are now selling her work and the collectors who have bought her work stand to gain enormous amounts. There are literally thousands and thousands (10,000+) of photographs, she has no heirs, etc.
Yes, but her work truly is superior - on every level. Yes, the movie story is quite well told. Yes, but Vivian Maier was so consummately, deeply guarded and private that she insisted her door be padlocked wherever she worked as a nanny. Now - ultimately for commercial/monetary purposes - she is completely exposed. Is this right? ethical? Ciwt is asking herself.
If readers don't go to the movie, it is worth a trip on line to Vivian Maier image sites. They are powerful, tender, soulful, beautifully composed and more.