Born in New York in 1926, Vivian Maier was a Chicago nanny who went out in her spare time and took street photos without seemingly telling anyone. Following her death in 2009, there’s been much interest in her work bringing her posthumous critical success worldwide. I went to see a showing of her images at the Steven Kasher Gallery in Chelsea.
I had seen some of her pictures before and been impressed but many of one’s in the Kasher show were new to me and revealed the depth and range of Maier’s work. I always think that it’s seeing the little things, the seemingly inconsequential, that make for a great street photographer. Maier certainly has that quality.
A couple in violently checked clothing embrace in a park and Maier is on hand to see the comedy of the moment.
An old homeless man sits on a park bench, his head lowered at a weird angle but his gaze fixed on the camera.
A black man crosses his hands behind his back and Maier is on hand to record the stark cleanness of brightness of his nails.
A school bus with the words fuck you scrawled on the glass in between the words ‘STOP ON SIGNAL’.
All are fantastic street images and all are unlike anything else. Yes her work at times is reminiscent of Helen Levitt but what is interesting is that I don’t think you’d necessarily guess a woman had taken most of these images.
I think we can talk now of something being Maier-esque. The images of the sleeping man on the beach and crumpled drunk on a curb seem to be uniquely her.