10 Reasons to go see the Vivian Maier Exhibit at the Minneapolis Photo Center this Weekend
Note: I am in the process of getting permission to use some of Vivian Maier's photographs for this blog post. However, I wanted to publish it early this weekend since the exhibit ends next week. To see some of Vivian's amazing work, please visit these sites:
Even if you aren't in the Twin Cities area, I would encourage you to read on to learn more about this fascinating photographer.
Last weekend I went with a friend to the Minneapolis Photo Center to see their current exhibit about mysterious photographer Vivian Maier. Let me start off by saying I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had no prior knowledge as to who she was or why she is becoming a famous photographer (yes, I said 'is' becoming. Read on). When I got to the Center, the exhibit started right at the entry way. I was instantly intrigued by Vivian’s photographs. Her work consists of mostly Chicago (and some parts of California) street life; specifically, people. Using her Rolleiflex camera, she managed to capture people’s emotions so authentically you could instantly feel what that person was feeling at the time of the picture. She took thousands of these types of pictures for years.
So, why haven't you heard of her before? I'll explain.
The real kicker of this story is that Vivian was an extremely private person and never had any of the film developed in her lifetime. When she died in 2009, the storage lockers where she kept all her film were auctioned off, and only then did people start discovering the talent she had kept secret her whole life. Over 100,000 negatives and slides have been found so far.
As I was looking at her pictures, which are now being developed and displayed, I found myself wondering: what would Vivian think about all of this?
10 reasons to visit the Minneapolis Photo Center for the Vivian Maier exhibit (or to learn about Vivian Maier):
1. She was the queen of selfies before selfie was even a word.
Vivian Maier had an eye for reflections and within those reflections she creatively took tons and tons of self-portraits. I left the exhibit inspired to start my own ‘selfie’ collection.
2. The way she captured emotions and expressions of Chicago’s population would make any photographer envious
Maier had a knack for blending into crowds which allowed her to quickly snap pictures of people at their most vulnerable moments without being noticed. Her ability to do this created some fascinating photographs and I found myself wondering who these people in the pictures were. Were they still alive? What kind of life did they live? Her pictures tell a story, and an interesting one at that.
3. Maier was a master at the Rolleiflexcamera
Maier owned multiple Rolleiflex cameras throughout her life. Her camera hung around waist level, which is one of the ways she was able to blend into crowds and take pictures of people so well. The photographs on display are a good mix of both candid photos and also portraits.
4. She took one roll of film (12 pictures) every day for years and never developed them
For reasons unknown, Vivian never developed the thousands of rolls of film she took throughout her life. She kept the film in storage lockers and after she died in 2009, the storage lockers were auctioned off. It was only then that her photography started getting developed and noticed.
5. She captured life in Chicago in the 50’s and 60’s
A lot happened in the 50’s and 60’s, and Vivian managed to capture real, raw and everyday life through her photography. The pictures on exhibit show fashion, news-worthy events (for example, protests), and everyday life from those decades.
6. Vivian breathes new life into black and white photography
I’ve always had a thing for black and white photography, but Maier brings it to a whole new level. Her composition is perfectly spot-on with every shot; even more impressive knowing that she had little photography education and that she never saw her photographs.
7. Her photography challenge lasted many years
Many photographers (hobbyists and professionals) take part in a photography challenge at some point in their career where they only take one photograph a day for a certain amount of time. Vivian rarely took the same photograph multiple times. Maybe it was because she only had twelve frames a day. Or maybe it was because she knew she was never going to develop the pictures. Either way, she was living in a life-long photographic challenge.
8. A one-hour documentary on Vivian Maier plays continuously throughout the day
The Center plays a free, one-hour long documentary about Vivan Maier’s life which is definitely worth the time.The documentary plays continuously throughout the day so you can come and go as you please (but I would recommend watching the whole thing). You will get a behind the scenes look at what is known about Vivian’s life, her photography, and what has happened since all her photographs were found.
9. The building that houses the Minneapolis Photo Center is seriously amazing
I LOVE the building the Photo Center is located in, which can be found just north of the Minneapolis Warehouse District. The building is old and has a lot of character. If you’re into that kind of stuff, I definitely recommend you check it out.
10. The exhibit & parking is free
That’s right. Admission to the Photo Center is free as well as the parking around it. What better way to spend time this weekend?
The Minneapolis Photo Center
The Minneapolis Photo Center was new to me; I didn't know such a place existed! The Photo Center not only displays photography exhibits, they also have photography labs including dark rooms and photo printing areas, numerous classes/workshops, artist talks, and areas to set up your own photo shoot location. They even have a full kitchen for food photography or just to cook in! According to the website: “The Center was created and exists to foster community and enrichment opportunities among local and regional photography enthusiasts, including both amateur and professional photographers. We provide dedicated spaces - physical as well as online - to our members for use in their individual photographic pursuits, as well as in our shared desire to preserve, reinvigorate and enjoy traditional forms of photography while embracing technologies of the future in support of creativity and lifelong learning”. While all of their exhibits are free and open to the public, the Center acts as a sort of co-op; if you are interested in using the Center beyond the exhibits, members pay $25.00 a month (students $15 a month) and you get discounts on classes/workshops, access to all the labs & darkrooms, options to reserve studio space and more. Click here for more information on becoming a member.
The Minneapolis Photo Center is open Monday - Thursday 11:00am - 9:00pm and Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 11:00am - 6:00pm. The Vivian Maier exhibit is open everyday from 11:30am - 5:30pm now through March 2nd.
Have you ever heard of Vivian Maier? Have you visited the Minneapolis Photo Center's exhibit? I'd love to hear your thoughts!
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