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GoSee Tip : Twinkle, twinkle, little star - Vivian Maier at Hilaneh von Kories Gallery

Since 27 January 2011, Hamburg’s Hilaneh von Kories Gallery presents ‘Twinkle, twinkle, little star...’ an exhibition of over eighty works spanning the 1950s and 60s by photographer Vivian Maier, whose work has never before been shown in Germany.

A surprising new discovery, as Vivian Maier never published her pictures or participated in the public photography realm. She worked as a childminder, however photography was her true passion. She shot an impressive body of work in Chicago and New York between the 1950s and 90s. She captured people on streets and in squares, little shops and cafes, everyday life…

This treasure was nearly lost forever. In a strange twist of fate, it was saved when estate agent John Maloof from Chicago placed a bid on a box in a warehouse furniture auction. The event has turned into a life-long project for John.

The mysterious box contained just a couple of prints, but over 100,000 black and white negatives, housed in glassine cases, labelled in French. Add to this around 20,000 colour slide positives and thousands of undeveloped film rolls. The great quantity and quality of the box was only gradually revealed through a tedious viewing process.

Vivian Maier photographed posers, housewives, dealers, the poor, the rich and kids playing on the streets. It seems she could best connect with children. They gaze into the photographer’s camera, sometimes curious, sometimes from a distance. Despite all the spontaneity, she still manages to have an accurate eye for subject and composition.

Today’s viewer experiences passers by from the past, as well as a glimpse of the domestic home and lifestyles, everyday life in the big city. The photographs encourage more than documentary interest, they provide a subjective, yet composed view of time. Yesterday’s moments still fascinate us today. Vivian Maier’s work need not shy away from comparisons with street photography legends such as Robert Frank, Helen Levitt, Diane Arbus and Henri Cartier-Bresson. Even if it is only discovered half a century later.

Was the encounter with unintended estate collection manager Maloof a coincidence or fate? He has devoted his life to this photo treasure chest with an admirable amount of energy and enthusiasm. One by one, Maloof is returning Vivian Maier’s masterpieces to the previously excluded public eye. Although the images are being slowly discovered, their creator’s life and death is still shrouded in mystery, a roll of film wound up tight with hardly any light to develop it.

What we do know is: she was born in New York, the daughter of European immigrants. She began working as child minder in the early 50s and was employed by a very rich family in Chicago, 1956.

According to a few statements from those who knew her personally, Vivian was an opinionated, stubborn character, who found her independence in photography. Having fallen ill and spent some time homeless, three brothers that she used to take care of as children, financed a small apartment for her in Chicago.

Although money and time never allowed for her own dark room and the publication of her images and Vivian Maier’s discovery is posthumous, her work has been firmly imbedded in the history of photography.

All images are printed with Epson UltraChrome K3 archival inks on Epson UltraSmooth Fine Art Paper.

Vivian Maier - Twinkle, twinkle, little star...
Galerie Hilaneh von Kories
until 28 April 2011
Tuesday - Friday 14:00 – 19:00 and by appointment
Stresemannstraße 384a (im Hof)
22761 Hamburg