Maier in France

There is an interesting post on the NYT Lens Blog from a few weeks ago, Touring the Nanny-Photographer’s Past by Richard Cahan in which he writes about a visit he made to  Saint-Bonnet-en-Champsaur in the Hautes-Alpes near Gap, France, a village which now has a population of around 2,000, but was perhaps rather smaller when Vivian Maier, born in the Bronx, lived there with her mother who had been born near there in the 1930s. Maier was then between 6 and 12 and they returned to live in the USA around the time of the start of the war, but she came back in 1949 and 1959 to take photographs.

Cahan is writing a book together with Michael Williams, “Vivian Maier: Out of the Shadows,” which will present her photographs in the context of her life, making use of the  18,000 Maier negatives owned by Jeffrey Goldstein who accompanied him to France.

On their trip they found very few people who actually remembered Maier, but more who recognised themselves and others in her images. For them in particular these photographs have great value, but so more generally do these, and many other collections from the past for all of us.

The NYT is a subscription site, but allows a limited number of free visits per month, and it’s worth using one of them to read this article and view the 20 or so pictures that illustrate it. And of course the web site of her work from the negatives owned by Goldstein (linked above) is worth a look.

Although I’m still not impressed by the super-hype about Maier as a great street photographer and she was definitely not a great innovator, she was an excellent photographer and her work certainly has interest and value.  I’m not sure I would ever particularly want to own the book (shelf space here is limited and the $85 pre-order price could be put to better use) but I welcome it becoming available, and I’m sure it will be interesting to read. Though at that kind of price it perhaps is not likely to make my local library.  But the future for most photographic publishing is perhaps the e-book (after a further generation or two of development of better reading hardware.)

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