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
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.
One of Jane Wright’s outstanding photographs above…….
Next meeting of the group at Karolina’s office on Friday 4th October commencing at 10 a.m……….
Maddie, Megan, David And Vernon first of all had a catch-up with events over the last month:
- Megan had attended the Leeds Festival, listened to Johhny Moore, taken lots of photographs and was going to the Framework Awards ceremony………
- Maddie was working in the Aboretum cafe, had suffered a fire!, was planning the prospect of attending Camp America next year and had experienced a ‘celebratory’ time!
- Vernon had produced a Photobook with Carol in readiness of a Canadian family visit, taken many photographs with different themes, and commented on the work of Steve McCurry having seen his exhibition in Yorkshire………
- David showed his ‘provisional’ print, which looked superb, commented on the work of Jane Wright, explained and developed his theme of working i.e an evolutionary approach to art, spoke about ‘parasite stress’ and watched as we tried majestically, I thought, to take it all in………David has promised us some literature on this concept. I know I need it!!!!
We then discussed some relevant issues related to our work together:
- We reiterated our commitment to producing a joint/individual photoBook. This would involve us ‘bringing’ our ideas to the project but it would, as David pointed out, involve ‘bringing ourselves’ to the work. E.g in Vernon’s case to utilise his poetry but also to incorporate how each of us sees the ‘world differently’.
- Why do we want to share our ideas with other people? Who/what is our audience?
- Where is our source for the work i.e. the places?
Our programme then took us to the Usher Gallery and an exhibition of work by Paul Johnson: “There’s something about you that I’m unsure about………” We met the Curator of the show and listened briefly to his comments whilst he spoke with some Foundation students from the University. This exhibition goes on until 2nd January, 2013 and we have been invited to return, scrutinise and possibly write a commentary.
Our next meeting will be on Friday 1st November, meeting at 10 am ……Karolina’s office………
During October please….
- Continue to take pictures and write some words to accompany them…….
- Bring memory sticks/cameras to November meeting so that David can transfer data to the Imac……….
- Return to the exhibtions at the Usher/Collection……..
- Bring any other work that’s outstanding……………
- Bring your quries/questions to the next session………..
Our schedule of meeting monthly is now well established as is our new office base in the Bailgate. Our thanks to Karolina and her Architectural Practice partner for offering us space in their fantastic base and with all the great facilities.
David, Maddie and Vernon discussed their work over a home-brewed coffee. They reviewed:
- Some of the equipment at the office e.g. The IMac and printer, which would be available for them to store their work and for any post-production.
- Where we were with recent homework and journals etc. David suggested sharing some copy of Vernon’s work on the York exhibition and the Peter Williams painting with Maddie and Megan.
- We discussed in brief how to reflect/think about our own work – ways of ‘being’ with a photograph or work of art and, in particular, what we bring to an understanding of the inherent meaning.
- We discussed what it is like to work on something and then ‘to put it into the world’ where other people may inter-act with it in many different ways than we may have intended.
- We covered the essential difference between ‘easy’ art e.g Musak in a lift, Chocolate box art, versus art that is different, poetic, making us see something in a new way. [We would visit some galleries today which would illustrate this point].
- We asked ourselves the question – ‘Who is our audience?’ Probably the answer lies in – ‘other people who are similar to us.’ The kind of people who attended the recent lecture on ‘Why I take Photographs’, or Adam and other artists. In some ways we make our own audience, as we may do when we create a PhotoBook to be exhibited to the public.
- David indicated that he wanted us to use the time between our monthly meetings to continue various photographic activities – Continue to invest time in constructing ‘transects’ and learning the process in depth; Each month to submit say 10 photos from a transect undertaken; To consider a transect as a Chapter of work; To accompany any images taken with some text, or words, or poetry, or writing which helps bring out any feelings one might have about the subject matter; To expect that any narrative may be read by others. To continue writing up our Journal.
- We touched on Post production techniques and usage of the camera from a skills point of view. We will be pursuing some of this in the future.
- We started to explore ideas around Photo ‘elicitation’ and the degree to which consciousness plays a part in the work we may produce.
- We even mentioned Kant and Phillip Larkin’s Toad!!!!!!
Then we walked to a wonderful exhibition of Photographs by Jane Wright called ‘Beautiful Light’ held at the Harding House Gallery Steep Hill Lincoln. Indeed the way Jane Wright uses light is just incredible and I will be revisiting the exhibition soon.[See below]
We also visited an exhibition of paintings and photographs nearby which was also first class.
A great time together and plenty to think about over the next month. And, indeed some photographs to take! Mine in Canada with a little bit of luck!!!!!!
Our intent for the August meeting was for all of us to come having:
- Updated our Journal/Biography.
- Prepared the reflection on a painting in the York exhibition.
- Reflected on the painting by Peter Williams and the ceramic work of Pete Moss.
We met at the Collection – Maddie, Vernon & David. Unfortunately Megan could not attend and it was difficult for Kierah given her new circumstances.
- The new monthly meeting plan and the prospect of meeting regularly in Karolina’s offices in the Bailgate.
- The possibility of Maddie & Megan attending SSC Sociological Imagination classes in the Autumn.
- Ratchel Tanner.
- That we might move from our focus on ‘A’ level work to consider other possibilities.
- The experiences Maddie had as a result of her attending David’s ‘Summer School’.These sound incredibly positive and her explanation of the work she produced was fluent, entertaining and very moving.
- That when undertaking a ‘transect’ walk we should also consider recording as an accompaniment some words that explain the context and indicate why the subject ‘resonates’ with us.
- We again discussed the prospect of producing a Photobook with words and images.
- We viewed the work of Josh at the Collection.
It was agreed to bring all our work up-to-date by the next meeting to be held at the offices in Bailgate. Meet at the Tourist shop at 10 a.m……………Friday 6th September, 2013.
We met at the Collection………..
- Maddie brought Vernon up-to-date as regards what they did at the previous meeting which he had missed.
- Maddie explained what the structure of today’s meeting would be, her future involvement in the SSC and somethings about Sarah’s seminars particularly around what the term ‘normal’ meant.
- We explored ideas around ‘visual philosophy’…..thinking of Photography.
- We looked at the magazine SOURCE which reflected on the work of professional photographers including Adam’s work. [ See Summer edition 2012]
- David explained that all members of SSC can submit work to Journals etc in order to foster their research.
- Note BG library is ‘free’ to join.
- The Summer school is now full and Maddie will be attending.
- David clarified a number of points about ubdertaking a Ph.d.
We then visited the Usher and Collection with a view to undertaking particular pieces of written work………At the York exhibition David advised we were to pick out a theme or piece of artwork or a point of comparison and write up a piece in relation to it. At the Usher we were advised to reflect on the painting ‘Remembrance’ and to describe what one ‘sees’
HOMEWork…..the exercises above.
Next meeting on 2nd August at the Collection……..
Our studies take us to the realm of 2 exercises to complete and share with each other.
- To consider any work on show [possibly a comparison of 2 works] in the York exhibition held at the Collection and to reflect on its/their merits, writing a short piece which describes what is going on and one’s engagement with the work.
- To reflect on the painting ‘Remembrance’ by Peter Williams on show at the Usher gallery and to ponder its significance for us in the light of what the work ‘tells’ us and in relation to the ceramics of Pete Moss.
I chose paintings by Lowry and Paul Nash from the York exhibition…..I’ll be very interested to see what others choose.