Press release | Amsterdam, January 2020
Following the successful exhibition at Foam in 2014 of Vivian Maier - Street Photographer, Foam presents the exhibition Vivian Maier - Works in Color. Vivian Maier (New York, 1926-2009) worked as a children’s nanny but took photographs all her life, without anyone in her vicinity ever seeing the results. Her work was only discovered after her death, when a box containing negatives was offered to a local auctioneering house and immediately went on to become a worldwide sensation. Maier’s astonishing oeuvre is easily on a par with famous contemporaries.
Vivian Maier’s fame is mainly based on her black & white photography. This exhibition will concentrate on a lesser known part of her oeuvre: some 60 color photographs made between 1956 and 1986. Maier mostly focused on portraying everyday life. Many photographs show the streets of Chicago (the city where Maier spent a large part of her life) with its people, objects, billboards and shops display windows. Her work in color seems a bit more playful and ‘tongue in cheek’ than her black & white photographs. She also used a different camera for her color photography, namely a Leica instead of a Rolleiflex.
Vivian Maier was born in the US as the daughter of a French mother and Austrian father. Her parents disappeared from her life relatively early, forcing her to become independent quickly. She started working as a nanny in 1951 and continued to do so for the rest of her life. Her photographic work reveals an interest in social subjects, depicting street life, the lower classes and immigrants. As she began to experiment with color film, her work gradually took on a more abstract character.
After Maier moved in with a wealthy Chicago family in 1956, she was given her own bathroom which became her first darkroom. After the children grew up in the 1970s, Maier was forced to seek work with other families. As a result, she was no longer able to develop and print her film material, and her film rolls started to pile up. Financial concerns and the absence of a permanent address eventually forced Maier to put aside her cameras and to place her belongings in storage while she tried to keep her head above water. Her photographic archive gradually sank into oblivion, until her belongings were auctioned off to settle debts in 2007. It wasn’t until the archive came into the possession of the American collector John Maloof, who had it further investigated, that the incredible quality of her work was discovered.
The genre of American street photography is dominated by photographers like Robert Frank, Joel Meyerowitz and Lee Friedlander. As a relative outsider (Maier spent much of her youth in France) and as a woman, Maier’s observational approach forms an important complement to the photographic canon.
The exhibition is compiled in collaboration with the Howard Greenberg Gallery in New York.
Vivian Maier – Works in Color is on display in Foam untill 13 September 2020.
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