3. Vivian Maier (1926-2009) /// 10 Favorite Photographers, in no certain order.
I suppose it’s fitting that I follow Avedon with Maier. It’s interesting because they both created a beautiful language between lines, simple composition, material objects, and human personality. However, while Avedon was a master at extracting these things, Maier was a master at discovering them. Her street photography is spontaneous, natural and utterly perfect. In each photograph she reveals reality so artfully and so crisply, it seems unreal. She found perfect moments where everything fits into place. Here are compositions and images that other photographers must manufacture but she could pick out and capture like elusive butterflies. (And, you know, she photographed Chicago…)
Maier was born New York City to a French mother and Austrian father in 1926. During her youth her family moved often between New York and France until her father left her family. She is thought to have been good family friends with Jeanne Bertrand, a skilled photographer. At 25 Maier moved to New York and worked in a sweatshop, until 1956 when she relocated to Chicago. Thereafter, she mostly nannied for income, and in the late 1950s she traveled prodigiously. Her photographs are comprised of street photography of New York and Chicago, with some snapshots of her travels. She was progressive, outspoken, well-loved by the children she cared for; she almost always wore menswear and she recorded conversations with people she photographed. Her photographs were almost entirely unknown and undeveloped until discovered by a Chicago historian in 2007. Her favorite subjects were sleeping men, crying children, and legs. (See her photos here).
1. Edward Steichen (1879 - 1973) /// 10 Favorite Photographers, in no certain order.
Steichen, an American photographer (and painter, critic and curator) born in Luxembourg, bought his first camera in 1895. His work was innovative and ahead of its time - and believed that photography could be both commercial and artistic (the horror!). Still, he was a founder of the photo secessionist movement, and created and managed 291. His artful technique but humble approach created some of the most iconic images of photography.
I love his work because it is painterly (making him a one-time favorite of the high-minded Steiglitz), gestural and often full of intrigue and mystery. Some of the dramatic effect of his work is the result of limited equipment of the early life of photography, but Steichen uses the grain and ambiguity, and heightens and manipulates it to his benefit. His shadows are more luminous than the crispest of images today.