Will the Real Vivian Maier Please Stand Up?

Finally! A full exhibition of her work(Vivian Maier: A Life Uncovered at the German Gymnasium as part of the London Street Photography Festival). One must think, however, that we still have no true sense of this woman or her work. John Maloof, who discovered this body of work, and his advisers have chosen images from her many thousand negatives to substantiate the claim that Maier belongs in the pantheon of great street photographers. Practically every image brings to mind the work of one of the greats. A self portrait that recently appeared on the website recalls Ilse Bing’s famous work, near Arbus’s abound, Helen Levitt is greatly in evidence also. Is Maier influenced by these or are her images imitations? Is Maier a genius outsider artist or merely a talented acolyte of many masters? While it’s hard to say what other course Maloof & Co may have followed, the result is that we can’t tell whether we are looking at Maloof’s vision of great female photographers or Maier’s vision of the street in front of her.

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