Street Photography

A few months ago a friend sent along this great video about a woman named Vivian Maier who lived and worked as a nanny in Chicago mid-century and took photos documenting city life. No one had ever seen her work until they were bought as part of an auction block. The person who bought them, John Maloof, was looking for photos of a particular Chicago neighbourhood and was instantly taken with her work. He set to trying to collect everything he could find about her and her work (including boxes of negatives that were purchased by others at the same auction). He has taken it upon himself to document and disseminate all of her work… some 100,000 photographs, including numerous rolls of film that have never been developed.

The quality of her work is outstanding – many say it is on par with lauded street photographers such as Walker Evans. Her work is currently on display at the Chicago Cultural Center. Maloof posts some of the photos on a blog regularly, is releasing a book of Maier’s work in 2011, and a film about Vivian and the discovery of her work is planned for 2012.

It got me thinking about street photography in today’s culture. I’m sure that people still do street photography, but it strikes me that the presence of 24-hour news cycles, blogs, citizen journalism, and the habit of people to constantly snap digital pictures of themselves, their friends, and their surroundings and then spread them worldwide, the importance of street photography as a form of documenting life may have become less important. There are some recent iterations of street photography: sites like Hel-looks and the Sartorialist. However, these sites are¬†dedicated to street fashion around the world, and not really a documentation of the cityscape and street life.

What do you think – is street photography still relevant? Are there modern street photographers that you’ve heard of?

** Photo by V.M. Fasoro

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Street Photography

One thought on “Street Photography

  1. wourliem says:

    I think Vivian Maier had advantages taking photography in her time. Looking at the blog posts of her images, I noticed how often people in poverty or people who are at the margins/vulnerable, like an upset child in some instances, are featured in her photos. In a time when taking a photo cost money for film, possibily money and at least time and effort to develop, asking someone for a picture might be a sign of interest and a rare event. Especailly rare if your on the margins of society or without resources.

    Today, taking photos is so common and their distribution so varied you must wonder/worry if a photo of you will wind up on youtube or in a fashon disaster blog.

    I was thinking about my own life and how much change there has been in access to images. I’m not sure how many images there are of me growing up. It’s probably in the dozens, something like a handful of photos a year for 16 years lets say. Lots of those being school pictures. This past summer on my trip to the middle east I probably took 800 pictures over 6 weeks.

    I think imagery of streets, like RUE’s before and after pieces, will always interest us as documents. The question is today, with security cameras taking 24/7 surveillence of spaces and online image storrage like Flicker does the ubiquity lessen the impact or character of images?

    Street photography seems relivent still, but I think selling it to the people being photogrpahed is harder. Maybe that explains the fashon tie in with many sites, it’s more pleasent to be approached with “I like your skirt can I take a photo of you for my street fashon site?” Rather than “I like your tearful child, this would be a great photo, may take a picture for my street photo site?”

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