Vivian Maier’s unseen and poetic color pictures
Having seen plenty of her photographs in recent years, we might have gotten used to the idea that Vivian Maier was a classic black & white street photographer. With the exhibition of her color work at the Howard Greenberg gallery in New York, we learn that the American photographer liked showing the world in a less frozen way.
Many of these photographs are on view for the first time, deepening the understanding of Maier’s oeuvre and her keenness to record and present her interpretation of the world around her. Dating from the 1950s to the 1980s, they capture the daily life in Chicago and New York, and include a number of her enigmatic self-portraits, where she played games with reflections in mirrors and windows.
Once again we find her in the street – her favorite terrain – with her unmistakable poetic style and her sensibility that can soften the hardest heart. She photographs a man who sells multicolored balloons. Plays with a lady who gives him a look as red as his outfit. Further, it’s a pink hat that catches her attention. Yellow and orange flowers in a shopping bag. White flowers on the backseat of a convertible car. An elderly couple holding hands in the shade of the sun. Some fairly simple pictures, perhaps less sophisticated than the most famous but with a touch of sweetness, or shine. A little more life in sum.
Alongside the exhibition, Vivian Maier: The Color Work, published by Harper Collins, is the first book devoted to her color images, with a foreword by street photographer Joel Meyerowitz and text by Colin Westerbeck, a former curator of photography at the Art Institute of Chicago. “Maier was an early poet of color photography,” writes Joel Meyerowitz. “You can see in her photographs that she was a quick study of human behavior, of the unfolding moment, the flash of a gesture, or the mood of a facial expression—brief events that turned the quotidian life of the street into a revelation for her.”