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