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Vivian Maier, a photographer left in the dark

Everything about Vivian Maier is extraordinary. The story of its rediscovery is a miracle. While working as a nanny all her life, serving families in New York or Chicago, from the 1950s to the 1980s, this obsessive photographer accumulated an immense work that she had never exhibited to the public, hardly ever shown, tidying up the negatives without always developing them.

John Maloof, a former art student turned realtor, bought boxes of negatives and slides at an auction in 2007 and fell in love with the images and set out to find out. the identity of this unknown photographer and to highlight it.

Died in 2009, alone and disturbed by psychiatric problems, without children or family, Vivian Maier will never have known anything of the enthusiasm that followed: exhibitions and books with incredible popular success, posthumous prints sold as rolls. But also heated conflicts between the various discoverers of the archives, the very distant cousins ​​of Vivian Maier, tracked by genealogists, and the lawyers appointed to manage the estate.

At the Luxembourg Museum in Paris, a large-scale exhibition takes stock of the work of the photographer, whose work on the archives has delivered, in recent years, more and more powerful images. We will find there what makes the singularity of his gaze: self-portraits as numerous as they are mysterious, charming street photos with revealing details on the time and on human nature, portraits of tender or acid strangers, to whom s ‘add previously unseen period films and prints. Vivian Maier, who lived part of her childhood in France, seems to succeed in the synthesis between the tradition of French humanist photography and American street photography.

Vivian Maier, a photographer left in the dark

Sense of composition

The photographer obviously has her eye everywhere: she stops on an elaborate hairstyle, a tear on a coat, spies out arguments in the street or the embraces of lovers, the tears of a child. With a very sure sense of composition, this autodidact captures the energy of the city in wide and well-felt shots. But above all, she knows how to stand under the noses of people who contemplate her, surprised and helpless, totally natural in front of the camera: a homeless man with lost eyes, a worried businessman, a suspicious lady under her veil, a young woman. classy black woman with self-confident beauty. This raw and uncompromising gaze, which plunges with the same intensity into the sweets and pains of existence, makes all the salt of the work.

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