Over 40 photographs by Vivian Maier, dating from the mid-1950s to the mid-1970s, are on view at Howard Greenberg Gallery in New York – many of which are here exhibited for the first time. Not only does the exhibition present rare lifetime prints, but it also include prints made this year, since the vast majority of Maier’s work was never printed. In addition, a selection of Maier’s black and white 35mm has been printed and shown for the first time.
Vivian Maier (1926-2009) has become a photography legend, born in New York City, she spent much of her youth in France and returned to the US in 1951. Reclusive and eccentric, Maier took pictures all the time, yet rarely showed them to anyone. From the mid-1950s to the 1990s, with a Rolleiflex dangling from her neck, she made over 100,000 images, primarily of people and cityscapes.
Her work, which appeared to be destined for obscurity, was discovered by Chicago-based realtor and historian John Maloof at an auction house in Chicago in 2007. Her negatives, previously housed in a storage locker, had been dispersed due to non-payment and Maier died before Maloof could contact her. Since 2010, more than 25 exhibitions of photographs by Vivian Maier have been mounted in the US and Europe. These shows have been met with critical acclaim, her work noted to be remembered as some of the best 20th-century street photography.
This new exhibition examines how Maier produces photographic gold with what others throw away: the spines of a mutilated umbrella fanning out across city garbage can, a Playboy magazine sliced in half across the model’s torso, a discarded high heel, and an image of a crumpled newspaper from the 1970s lying in the grass with a headline asking “Where’s Hoffa?”
Her portraits include a woman with an elaborate 1950s hairstyle, young boys waiting for a customer for their shoeshine business, and a beautiful, young Lena Horne from 1954. Maier’s imagery tells a story, and each piece gives rise to different memories and references for each viewer with portraits, in particular, that exploit our nostalgia for long-ago decades.
Vivian Maier: In Her Own Hands, until 6 December, Howard Greenberg Gallery, 41 East 57th Street, Suite 1406, New York. For more information head to www.howardgreenberg.com.
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1. Vivian Maier: In Her Own Hands. Courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery.