Next Transect Walk…..sometime in September/October…..

I’m thinking of aligning my next transect walk with the work of Vivian……… which she centred on Chicago & New York.

I’m very taken with her approach, her subject matter and her total disregard for pretence or publicised material. She quietly went around photographing city scenes without ever seeking merit for herself. Yet her work is quite outstanding……..


So how to plan the work…….?  Firstly a little information about her…………

About Vivian Maier

Vivian Maier, Self Portrait, October 18, 1953, New York
Vivian Maier, Self Portrait, October 18, 1953, New York

A riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.

Piecing together Vivian Maier’s life can easily evoke Churchill’s famous quote about the vast land of Tsars and commissars that lay to the east. A person who fit the stereotypical European sensibilities of an independent liberated woman, accent and all, yet born in New York City. Someone who was intensely guarded and private, Vivian could be counted on to feistily preach her own very liberal worldview to anyone who cared to listen, or didn’t. Decidedly unmaterialistic, Vivian would come to amass a group of storage lockers stuffed to the brim with found items, art books, newspaper clippings, home films, as well as political tchotchkes and knick-knacks. The story of this nanny who has now wowed the world with her photography, and who incidentally recorded some of the most interesting marvels and peculiarities of Urban America in the second half of the twentieth century is seemingly beyond belief.

An American of French and Austro-Hungarian extraction, Vivian bounced between Europe and the United States before coming back to New York City in 1951. Having picked up photography just two years earlier, she would comb the streets of the Big Apple refining her artistic craft. By 1956 Vivian left the East Coast for Chicago, where she’d spend most of the rest of her life working as a caregiver. In her leisure Vivian would shoot photos that she zealously hid from the eyes of others. Taking snapshots into the late 1990′s, Maier would leave behind a body of work comprising over 100,000 negatives. Additionally Vivian’s passion for documenting extended to a series of homemade documentary films and audio recordings. Interesting bits of Americana, the demolition of historic landmarks for new development, the unseen lives of ethnics and the destitute, as well as some of Chicago’s most cherished sites were all meticulously catalogued by Vivian Maier.

A free spirit but also a proud soul, Vivian became poor and was ultimately saved by three of the children she had nannied earlier in her life. Fondly remembering Maier as a second mother, they pooled together to pay for an apartment and took the best of care for her. Unbeknownst to them, one of Vivian’s storage lockers was auctioned off due to delinquent payments. In those storage lockers lay the massive hoard of negatives Maier secretly stashed throughout her lifetime.

Maier’s massive body of work would come to light when in 2007 her work was discovered at a local thrift auction house on Chicago’s Northwest Side. From there, it would eventually impact the world over and change the life of the man who championed her work and brought it to the public eye, John Maloof.

Currently, Vivian Maier’s body of work is being archived and cataloged for the enjoyment of others and for future generations. John Maloof is at the core of this project after reconstructing most of the archive, having been previously dispersed to the various buyers attending that auction. Now, with roughly 90% of her archive reconstructed, Vivian’s work is part of a renaissance in interest in the art of Street Photography.



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Michel Foucault…..a brief introduction………..

Michel Foucault

This page gives a very brief introduction to Foucault’s work (or the part of it that interests us), plus a select bibliography and a bunch of links to some web resources on other sites.

On the separate Why Foucault? page, in a hopefully user-friendly move, I try to explain the ways in which Foucault is useful and relevant by the sympathetic means of admitting how, when Iwas an undergraduate, I couldn’t really understand why people seemed to think he was useful and relevant. You can also see how Foucault fits intoqueer theory, see reviews of some Foucault-related books, read essays on Foucault, and gaze at Foucault’s Paris.

You can also see the results of our competition to find a one-sentence definition of “technologies of the self“. But first…

The brief and oversimplified intro to Foucault

We often talk about people as if they have particular attributes as ‘things’ inside themselves — they have an identity, for example, and we believe that at the heart of a person there is a fixed and true identity or character (even if we’re not sure that we know quite what that is, for a particular person). We assume that people have an inner essence — qualities beneath the surface which determine who that person really ‘is’. We also say that some people have (different levels of) power which means that they are more (or less) able to achieve what they want in their relationships with others, and society as a whole.

Foucault rejected this view. For Foucault, people do not have a ‘real’ identity within themselves; that’s just a way of talking about the self — adiscourse. An ‘identity’ is communicated to others in your interactions with them, but this is not a fixed thing within a person. It is a shifting, temporary construction.

People do not ‘have’ power implicitly; rather, power is a technique or action which individuals can engage in. Power is not possessed; it is exercised. And where there is power, there is always also resistance.

That’s a really boiled-down version of one or two big ideas that people take from Foucault’s later works. Foucault developed different approaches for his different studies, but his work can be simplistically divided into ‘early’ Foucault, where he worked on the ways in which state power and discourses worked to constrain people, and ‘later’ Foucault (from the mid-1970s to his death from an AIDS-related illness in 1984), in which that idea of power as a ‘thing’ is broken down, and it is instead seen as a more fluid relation, a ‘technique’ which can be deployed. It is this latter part of his work which primarily concerns us here.

Since (as I explain further in ‘Why Foucault?’) Foucault didn’t really go for making clear statements of his ‘argument’, even some of the basic claims above are open to other people coming along and saying “I hardly think that Foucault would have wanted you to feel that he was saying that…”. But in the real world you’ve just got to have the courage to say “I got this from Foucault”. Or just can mutter about “Foucauldian ideas” in a defensive way; you choose. Some people hide behind long words and potentially meaningless phrases when discussing French philosophers, but others feel that if you’regenuinely clever you don’t do that. Again: your choice.


See the results of our competition to find a one-sentence definition of “technologies of the self“.


Select bibliography

(Most titles have been republished by other publishers at later dates).

Foucault: selected later works

Foucault, Michel (1978 [French publication: 1976]), The History of Sexuality, Vol. I: An Introduction, translated by Robert Hurley, Pantheon, New York.

Foucault, Michel (1985 [1984]), The Use of Pleasure: The History of Sexuality, Vol. II, translated by Robert Hurley, Pantheon, New York.

Foucault, Michel (1986 [1984]), The Care of the Self: The History of Sexuality, Vol. III, translated by Robert Hurley, Pantheon, New York.

Foucault, Michel (1980), Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings 1972-1977, edited by Colin Gordon, Harvester, London. (See in particular ‘The Confession of the Flesh’ [interview, 1977]).

Foucault, Michel (1988), Politics, Philosophy, and Culture: Interviews and Other Writings, 1977-1984, edited by M. Morris and P. Patton, Routledge, New York.

Rabinow, Paul, ed. (1985), The Foucault Reader, Pantheon, New York.

Foucault: the earlier works

These include Madness and Civilization (1961),The Birth of the Clinic (1963), The Order of Things(1966), The Archaeology of Knowledge (1969),Discipline and Punish (1975). The dates given here are for the first, French publication of each title.

Some recommended material on Foucault

Bristow, Joseph (1997), ‘Discursive Desires’ inSexuality, Routledge, London.

Sarup, Madan (1996), ‘Foucault: Sex and the Technologies of the Self’, in Identity, Culture and the Postmodern World, Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh

Gutting, Gary (1994), ‘Michel Foucault: A user’s manual’, in Gutting, Gary, ed., A Cambridge Companion to Foucault, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Halperin, David M. (1994), Saint Foucault: Towards a Gay Hagiography, Oxford University Press, New York.

Segal, Lynne (1997), ‘Sexualities’, in Woodward, Kathryn, ed., Identity and Difference, Sage, London.

Fillingham, Lydia Alix & Susser, Moshe (1993),Foucault for Beginners, Writers and Readers Publishing, New York.

Horrocks, Chris, & Jevtic, Zoran (1997), Foucault for Beginners, Icon Books, Cambridge.

Bibliographic fun fact

In the kind of sense that the movie Star Wars is really called Star Wars IV: A New Hope, Foucault’s book The History of Sexuality, Vol. I: An Introduction is really called The History of Sexuality, Vol. I: The Will to Knowledge.
…And indeed, no sooner had I said that (November 1998) than Penguin add to their website a cool new edition bearing the title The Will To Know [left], just in time to catch the lucrative Foucault Christmas market.
…And then that one doesn’t appear in the shops because they realise that this translation will bring about public humiliation, picketing of Penguin offices, etc etc, and so they fall back onThe Will to Knowledge [right]. Publishing. Outrageous.



These links are to other sites. Obviously, we recommend you finish wandering round theresources page of this one first.



Michel Foucault

Michel Foucault (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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