Every now and then I see photographs which strike a chord. For me, these are usually portraiture of some kind. When I consider some of my favourite photographs I can narrow that further and say black and white portraits of people, often financially disadvantaged or just very old, photographed within their environment. Why this particular subject matter? I usually feel emotion when I see photographs which contain all of those things. That emotion could be empathy, anger, warmth or comfort.
So you can imagine my delight when I walked into a bookstore last weekend and opened a photography book to find all that and more. Black and White? Check. ‘Everyday’ people? Tick. In the environment? Well and truly.
When I first flicked through the pages of the book, I had moments of just staring. I knew this was a book I had to add to my already rather full shelves. It was only after I fell in love with the pictures that I read anything about the photographer herself.
Vivian Maier. I had never heard of her. Turns out until a few years ago, no one else had either. If being thoroughly captivated by some of her images wasn’t enough, she had an amazing life story to boot. As the quote on the back of the book says:
Vivian Maier represents an extreme instance of posthumous discovery: of someone who exists entirely in terms of what she saw. Not only was she entirely unknown to the photographic world, hardly anyone seemed to know that she even took photographs. – Geoff Dyer
If you want to know more, Powerhouse books has a nice write-up and includes a video giving you an idea of which photographs are in the book. The official website is also great as it includes images not in the book.
I can’t wait until next week when I’m off work and can sit and pour over the pictures again before leaving Sydney for a week or so to enjoy Andrew’s 40th birthday, get stuck into some Travel photography for my monthly project and delight in seeing new places.