From obscurity, a legend of quality photography was born. The Hungarian House of Photography is proud to present the works of the photography world’s latest sensation, Vivian Maier.
In 2007, an amateur historian John Maloof stumbled upon a box of unmarked and unnamed negatives in a Chicago auction house, and discovered one of the greatest American street photographers of the twentieth century.
The legacy of over 2 000 rolls of films, 3 000 prints, and more than 100 000 negatives, the full extent of which, in fact, Vivian Maier probably never showed to anyone, has impressed professionals and admirers of photography alike all over the world. With only a few shows in Europe so far and before a grand tour in 2013, a selection of mostly never before displayed 50 fine prints are now exhibited at the Hungarian House of Photography in Budapest, courtesy of the Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York, NY.
Vivian Maier was essentially unknown throughout her lifetime. She was born in New York in 1926 to a French mother and an Austro-Hungarian father. She traveled extensively between Europe and the U.S. and, in 1956, she ultimately settled in Chicago where she worked as nanny for more than forty years. For a brief period in the 1970s she worked as a nanny to journalist, Phil Donahue’s children. Towards the end of her life, Maier was supported by the children she had cared for in the early 50s. Unbeknownst to them, one of Maier’s storage lockers (containing her massive group of negatives) was auctioned off due to delinquent payments. She passed away in 2009 at the age of 83.
With no proper training but an eye for detail, composition and a sense for timing and humanitarian sensitivity, she recorded peculiar moments of urban America in the second half of the twentieth century. Her candid shots of mostly black and whites from the 50’s and 60’s include street scenes, portraits of children and couples, as well as abstract compositions of architectural elements. Continuing her craft into the late 1990′s, she left behind a body of work that, while still being archived and categorized, includes a series of homemade documentary films and audio recordings.
Now, with roughly 90% of the archive reconstructed, her work is part of a renaissance of interest in the art of street photography, echoing legends such as Cartier-Bresson, Arbus, or Frank. The selection presented at the Hungarian House of Photography provides a perfect insight into her ouvre by showcasing works of main subjects: children, women and couples, general cityscapes or street photography, and self-portraits.
The publication Vivian Maier – Street Photographer is available in the Mai Manó Gallery and Bookstore, while the photographs are also for sale.
In 2007, while working on a definitive history of my neighborhood of Portage Park on the Northwest Side of Chicago, I accidentally stumbled upon the photographic cache of Vivian Maier. The chain of events that this discovery set in motion has since turned the world of street photography, as well as my life, upside down. What began as my personal passion has caught the public eye, and I have now spent the last [four] years preserving and archiving Maier’s vast work, which she had kept secret for over fifty years.
Vivian Maier was deeply interested in the world around her. Having picked up photography around 1950, she continued to take snapshots into the late 1990s, ultimately leaving behind a body of work comprising over one hundred thousand negatives. Elderly folk congregating in Chicago’s Old Polish Downtown, garishly dressed dowagers, and the urban African American experience were all fair game for Maier’s lens. Additionally Maier’s vision extended to a series of homemade films and audio recordings. Bits of Americana, the demolition of historic landmarks for new development, the unseen lives of the downtrodden and the destitute, as well as series from some of Chicago’s most cherished sites were all subjects to Maier continuously revisited.
Yet, the combination of Maier’s intense privacy and lack of confidence in her own photographic powers nearly resulted in her collection being consigned to oblivion. If not for an probable set of circumstances, Maier’s iconic images would have been scattered across storage lockers stuffed to the brim with found items, art books, newspaper clippings, home films, and knickknacks.
I have always been fond of a quote by Maier from an audio recording she made where we can hear her philosophize about the meaning of life and death: “We have to make room for other people. It’s a wheel you get on, you go to the end, and someone else has the same opportunity to go to the end, and so on, and somebody else takes their place. There’s nothing new under the sun.”
On December 11 at 6pm we are organizing an English-language guided tour to supplement the exhibition.
Registration is recommended so please send email by clicking here
Open to the public until 6 January 2013 on Weekdays: 14.00 - 19.00 at Weekends 11.00 - 19.00
Source: Hungarian House Of Photography
Address: 1065 Budapest-Terézváros, Nagymezõ utca 20.