The problem with writing on Vivian Maier


This means that his creativity, his art, is inextricably linked with mental illness. It’s a pretty generic argument, but in the hands of Marks, it gets sickening. His interpretations of Maier’s work are sometimes inadvertently inspired by clinical analyzes. She quotes a father-son duo of Freudian therapists who postulate that “the negative themes that surface in Vivian’s portfolio – including death, violent crime, demolition, and garbage – represent subconscious reflections of her low self-esteem. self “. Name any worthy photographer artist– and you will encounter “negative themes”. It is insipid psychoanalysis and, even worse, critical writing.

As I read I grew more and more irritated by this reductive and condescending portrayal of Maier. (This is underlined by how Marks calls Maier “Vivian.” Who has worked in a service capacity all of her life, was unlikely to be called by her last name.) “With strength of character and immense persistence, “writes Marks,” Vivian has developed compensatory qualities and coping mechanisms, like photography, to deal with her mental health problems. ” In Marks’ tale, Maier is a woman with mental illness who took pictures almost like a therapeutic tic rather than a full-fledged artist with (perhaps) a mental illness. Maier’s self-portraits, according to Marks, are just means of self-justification to the world – signposts of a woman who has been forever undocked. Even Maier’s prolificity is evidence of a compulsion, as if taking pictures were a piece of his newspaper accumulation. Marks never thought that Maier just enjoyed being a photographer and that the act of framing a photo itself was creatively fulfilling. Would anyone point to a writer’s pile of false starts and failed drafts as signs of a mental disorder?

Just because Maier didn’t often develop his reels of film and rarely produced copies (and hardly ever exhibited them) that his creative practice was somehow stunted or insular. It’s a careerist take on how a photographer should operate. Maier was undoubtedly a serious, dedicated and consummate artist, largely self-taught, who honed her craft over the decades. As Marks herself notes, Maier was more than an amateur, even from the start: “In total, the thousands of old images… [France]. In New York City, Maier sought “colleagues with whom to learn, collaborate, and engage in business.” She diligently cropped images and experimented with color film. Even at the end of her career, Maier was known to leave specific instructions to the technicians responsible for developing her images. But pushing her into a nauseating Hallmark account of a woman triumphing over her demons, Marks’ biography unwittingly underestimates Maier’s success. coping mechanism ”, but his life’s work.

“I’m kind of a spy,” Maier told someone who asked him about his profession. She was cheeky, but the remark indicates how she viewed herself: as a witness and intruder, a woman interested in momentary revelations of the truth, no matter how painful, embarrassing, or burdensome they are. His photographs represent a vast album of American street life spanning five decades and, at the same time, a chronicle of Maier’s place in this landscape. It is a work that is both objective and subjective, of which Maier is both the author and a recurring and ambiguous protagonist which gives the whole company a sort of self-referential weight. Contrary to Marks’ argument, I see no meaningful distinction between the photographer and the world in Maier’s work. She does not appear to me as an isolated woman trying to fix her coordinates in a universe from which she was in some way foreign. Rather, she looks like a woman who was deeply and intuitively present.


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