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Retrospective exhibition of Vivian Maier's photographs opens at Willy-Brandt Haus
New York Public Library, New York, 1952 Vivian Maier/Maloof Collection, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York.

BERLIN.- Vivian Maier – Street Photographer is a retrospective exhibition featuring the work of a female street photographer whose impressive oeuvre was only discovered at the end of her life – and then immediately caused a worldwide sensation. Vivian Maier (b.1926 – d. 2009) worked as a governess for more than four decades from the early 1950s onwards. Her entire life inevitably passed by unnoticed, until in 2007 her photographic body of work was discovered: a colossal archive consisting of more than 120,000 negatives, super 8 mm and 16 mm films, various recordings, miscellaneous photographs, and a multitude of undeveloped films. The presentation in the Willy-Brandt-Haus provides a glimpse of the fine eye and subtlety with which Maier appropriated the visual language of her age.

Maier photographed the street, people, objects, landscapes in her spare time; simply put, she ultimately and abruptly photographed what she saw. She knew how to capture her era in a fraction of a second. She narrated the beauty of ordinary things, seeking the imperceptible cracks and elusive inflections of the real in everyday banality.

Her world consisted of the others, the unknown, anonymous people, whom Maier touched upon for a second. So when she recorded with her camera, it was first a matter of distance – that same distance that turned those characters into the protagonists of an anecdote of no importance. And even though she dared imperious, disconcerting compositions, Maier stayed on the threshold and even beyond the scene she photographed, never on the outside, so as not to be invisible. She took part in what she saw and became a subject herself.

The reflections of her face, her shadow cast onto the ground, the figure of her silhouette, they are all projected in the perimeter of the photographic image. Maier made numerous self-portraits in those years with the insistence of someone in search of herself. She cultivated a certain obsession, less for the image itself than for the act of photographing, for the gesture, like an accomplishment in the making. The street was her theatre; her images a pretext.

All these prints come from the collection of John Maloof, Chicago.

The exhibition has been curated by Anne Morin, director of diChroma Photography.

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