After watching a documentary on the life and work of Vivian Maier I have decided to look at her street photographs to inform my current thoughts and approaches to the relationship brief. Maier was a mysterious American nanny whose photographs remained undiscovered until her death in 2009. She is now considered one of the greatest photographers of the 20th century. While looking after other people's children she would take to the streets with her Rolleiflex camera at her waist to photograph the public.
One thing that is particularly evident when looking at Maier's monochrome square street photographs is how incredibly observant she was. Noticing small details in shop windows for example and dresses blowing in the wind. I love the photograph above for example because of this pattern she noticed of these men wearing their hats and reading their newspapers. There is a real sense of rhythm created through the repetition in this photograph, illustrating that people like this are the rhythm of this city.
Maier's photographs of people are her most memorable often because of the way she interacted with her subjects. Holding her Rolleiflex at her waist she would stand and stare at her subjects which is why we see these really interesting expressions from the people in her images. Which often looks to be confrontational but there is something calm about the way her subjects react to her presence. To me it feels as though Maier used her photography to express how she felt like an outsider. It is as though she has briefly entered these people's lives to try and understand people, and herself.
Maier also took a lot of self portraits and photographed her own shadow often. The presence of the photographer being so overtly demonstrated throughout her different photographs I find really intriguing, and it really allows you to connect to the subject matter in a different way. You aren't just seeing what is directly in front of you, you are able to understand more the photographer's place in the photograph and the relationship they have with their subject matter.
Her approach and style often veers towards that of other great photographers such as Weegee, Robert Frank and Richard Avedon. However there is a unique sense of gentleness in her photographs which is often paired with high emotion. I think the way she is able to turn these often passing shots into such transient moments is incredibly special and is why her work has been so well received by people in the past decade since its discovery.
Maier's approach to street photography I find so inspiring, particularly in the way she considers her own position in taking the photograph. I feel that despite capturing other people she is capturing a part of herself and what fascinates her. Her eye for design and composition in her images is also a strong element of her photographs, some of her images even seem like editorial fashion shots despite being candid photographs. This approach that creates such clean and beautiful photographs that are so atmospheric is really inspiring to me and I feel I need to go out more and just work on taking candid photographs with film, just to get a feel for this kind of photography.