Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Eye to Eye: Photographs by Vivian Maier

Two sides of Vivian Maier are on display in Eye to Eye: Photographs by Vivian Maier, the third collection of the photographer's work to be published since her death in 2009. The first is the Maier who seems to have asked permission to photograph people along city streets or in parks in Chicago, New York, or on vacations abroad. The second Maier is the woman who was bound to get photographs of people who interested her with or without permission. No matter which Maier was working at the time, the result was sharp images of people looking into her camera.

Not all of the subjects look pleased, of course. The girl getting out of the car in Wilmette (page 153) looks like she was starting to yell at Maier. I imagine the woman in on the street in Lake Forest (page 201) was thinking "Why won't this person leave me alone?" But there are just as many smiles. The young woman waiting for a train in Chicago (page 167) looks jolly and the older woman in Sandwich, Illinois, (page 203) seems about to laugh.

The subjects were not all women. There were blue collar workers, homeless men, children, and families. From France, Italy, and Malaysia, there were farmers, shopkeepers, mothers with children, and even what I assume were holy men. Not having Maier here to tell us who the people were, we are free to imagine their lives and stations.

The photos were taken between the 1950s and the 1970s, and all are in black-and-white. All have labels saying simply a city or country and an approximate year. In a few the background is indistinct, but many have identifiable settings as well as people. Chicago area residents may be able to pinpoint exactly where Maier stood when she took her photos. The images help us remember or imagine times past, depending on our ages.

It would be so cool to discover someone you knew in Eye to Eye or other books by Maier. Unless, of course, they looked very unhappy in the photos.

Maier, Vivian. Eye to Eye: Photographs by Vivian Maier. CityFiles Press, 2014. 207p. ISBN 9780991541805.

No comments: