Maier

Oh, I dunno. Maier. Vivien. It's all too good to be true. The epic scale of that unacknowledged commitment, the failures of impoverishment, lovelessness and an inconsequential passing. Who doesn't have reservations? As for the two men who did make money maybe they deserved it having recognised, salvaged and successfully hyper-promoted someone whose images were destined for landfill otherwise, someone whose name and memory were dispersing like smoke on a windy day. MoMA, Steidl or collectordaily couldn't have done a fraction as much. A lot of photographers find the whole thing a bit too Sunday-supplement-ish. And she made photographs in the street, ffs. Even the BBC have squeezed her story into their arts programming at least twice despite their interest in photography normally being minus five on the Celsius scale, which is not quite below that of the Tate a decade or two ago but even so. From what is claimed, she was self-centred and covetous of her images, spending her meagre income to make and then store them (hence the storage wars sale when the money ran out shortly before death). And there are many worthy of anyone's covetousness. So I'm very glad she's acknowledged, if belatedly, and as widely as possible till we are all sick of hearing about her. The images will out-live the initial Maier mania.

I don't buy art but a few years ago a pop-up unbranded gallery appeared in what seemed to be a closed down Poundland shop in London for a month or two selling freshly minted Maier prints and after a quick peruse I was unexpectedly impulsively ready to splash everything I had in the bank on the spot; the print I wanted seemed absurdly cheap. It was one of her self-portraits, and had just been sold. Having missed that one none of the other prints on show were nearly as good.

Anyway I came across this pic by here today. If I'd seen it before (probably had) I'd forgotten it. It wasn't the one but it's very good. I can see she liked the abstracting effect of the reflection, particularly where the hat blends into the sky and the ghosting of her outline. It makes me smile to consider how she took it. With waist-level twin-lens reflex cameras you compose and focus by looking down into them. So when she was setting up the shot she was staring downwards, and not straight ahead. She probably shuffled half a step this way, half a step that until she'd got the composition just right and then holding the camera in exactly that position and not messing up by letting it twist one way or another in her hands as she moved her head, looked up and set her face and that blank gaze on the distant buildings behind her, effectively focussing on  infinity, and very carefully pressed in the button, not moving anything, holding her breath until after the brief whirr of the leaf shutter signalled the image was safely recorded.









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