Tuesday, April 26, 2011


I'm sure many of you have been enjoying the new Vivian Maier website. I know I have. At this point there's not much to say about Maier that hasn't already been said. Her photos speak for themselves. But I guess I can't help myself.

I mean, a shot like this kid in a yard? Holy crap, are you kidding me? Where does she get off taking something like that? The squint, the untucked collar, the picket fenced hair. Truly a phenom.

As if the black and white isn't enough to deal with, now we discover that she was equally, almost casually, fluent in color.

August 1975, Vivian Maier

May 1976, Vivian Maier

For photographers who've been at it a while, it's sort of like being at mile 20 of a marathon and having some young punk in street clothes blow by at sprint speed. It brings into question the entire premise of the enterprise. But alas, nothing to do but keep slogging.

I guess it won't surprise anyone to discover that Maier was a packrat. As I've written before, I think all photographers are hoarders on some level. Mike Johnston agrees. Still, the depth of Maier's compulsion exposed on the new website verges on pathology. On the hoarding scale (link, then scroll down) she's at least a 5, maybe a 6. And thank god for it or she may never have been discovered.

Newspaper clippings saved by Maier, from the website

One of the new web photos which caught my eye is this shot.

Untitled, Undated, Vivian Maier

Although the caption is untitled I'm fairly certain this is Emmett Kelly circa 1955.

The only reason I know much about Emmett Kelly is I have a son named Emmett. Before we named him I researched well known Emmetts just to be have a sense of what was out there. It turns out the name Emmett carries a certain photographic pedigree.

There's Emmett Mann.

Squirrel Season, 1987, Sally Mann

There's Emmet from Iowa.

Emmet Smiling · Krieger Falls, Ohio · 1973, Nancy Rexroth

There's Emmet Gowin.

Emmet Gowin, 1982, Sam Fentress

There's the photobook Emmett, inspired by the eponymous town in central Idaho.

from Emmett by Ron Jude

There's poor Emmett Till, subject of one of the most iconic funeral photographs ever made.

Emmett Till's body, Jet Magazine

Truly a disgusting photograph, but a very accurate portrayal of racism. The photo speaks for itself.

Emmett Andrews was born August 28, 2005, fifty years to the day after Emmett Till's murder. I only discovered this fact later, about a year after his birth, but it seems meaningful.

Me holding Emmett, 2006, photo by Tab

Who knows what Emmett will be. A hoarder? A photographer? A nanny with a secret? Will his face ever appear in news clippings stacked in a storage locker?

I don't know. He's five now. The future is wonderfully uncertain. All I know is you can start off writing one life story and finish somewhere completely different, and that the end usually comes by surprise.


Jack Nelson said...

Wow, what a post.Great shot by Maier and that last sentence is a killer.

www.rcwoolley.com said...

excellent post, thanks for sharing the new vivian maier website, and that beautiful portrait of you and your son.
I always learn so much visiting your page, thank you