Monday, December 19, 2011

Another woman's work rescued from the trash

The December issue of Smithsonian Magazine includes a short article on Vivian Maier, whom it calls a "photographer of consequence." Never heard of her? That's because Maier, who worked as a nanny, didn't sell a print in her lifetime and rarely shared her photos with friends and neighbors. Her photos came out in the open only because she could no longer pay rent on the storage unit where they had been kept. A stranger, John Maloof, bought a box of 30,000 negatives for $400 in 2007.

By the time Maloof began sifting through the negatives, Maier was dead. Fortunately, Maloof liked what he saw and started posting her photos on a blog. He also has issued a book of her work (which, probably due to the magazine piece, is out of stock at Amazon right now).

You have to wonder how many other female artists haven't been so lucky—lacking any kind of postmortem discovery or champion.

How much work by women has simply been thrown away? Perhaps this is true also for good and even excellent work by male artists and writers who have had the misfortune to remain unknown. But from all of antiquity we have one complete poem from Sappho (and a few other line fragments), and a handful of lines from other female writers—compared to the multiple volumes by men that are arranged in the Loeb Classical Library.  There is little or no female perspective remaining from those centuries—the voice of all those women is eerily silent.

The above photo is from a direct link to a page on Maloof's blog.

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