Visiting Chicago, Discovering Vivian

It was standing room only until they could locate an auditorium large enough to accommodate the 500 or so people who showed up at the Chicago Cultural Center last Thursday to hear the Gallery Talk with Lanny Silverman, curator for “Finding Vivian Maier.”

I was glad I got there early as I had a chance to view Vivian’s images before the crowds arrived. Seventy-two framed prints are hung in two rooms. Seeing them up close, they are even more captivating, with details and qualities not visible when viewed on a screen.  And there were many I had not seen.

At his talk, Mr. Silverman described the difficult choices in determining which prints to exhibit.  The work is posthumous, so he did not have Vivian’s intent. He viewed 1,000 images and selected 72 representing a cross-section of Vivian’s work. 130,000 images are yet to be developed.

We were in for a surprise. John Maloof, discoverer and archivist, was there in person with Anthony Rydzon. Through their research, new details emerge about Vivian. She was a loner, yet she was sophisticated. She was self taught, but not naïve. She had an eye for fashion and often photographed the wealthy, but she was non-judgmental and gave equal consideration to the down and out. She was self educated, but demonstrated a broad range of artistic style. She was a hoarder, with collections of photos, shoes and memories.

While in Chicago, I also took time to see “American Modern” at the Chicago Institute of Art. This exhibition focused exclusively on the work of American photographers Berenice Abbott, Walker Evans, and Margaret Bourke-White, three of the most influential photographers of their time. Seeing their prints confirms for me that Vivian stands among them.

Visiting Chicago has provided me with new motivation. I encourage you to visit our local galleries. Or do as I did and take a trip. DC, Philadelphia, and New York all have renowned museums and small galleries. May you find inspiration and good photographic opportunities as well.

Leslie S.

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