Work of late American street photographer makes Taiwan debut

07/08/2020 06:48 PM
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Taipei, July 8 (CNA) Some 113 classic photos by the late Vivian Maier, a pioneering American street photographer, are on exhibition in Taiwan for the first time, showcasing street scenes of her country in the mid-20th century.

Portraits of pedestrians taken from waist level, abstract figures created through an interaction of light and shadows, and mysterious self-portraits are among the eye-catching pieces on display at the "Vivian Maier, Street Photographer" exhibition in Taipei.

The photos, some in color and others in black-and-white, were shot with a Rollei binocular film camera on the streets of New York and Chicago in the 1950s and 60s.

Maier, a French-American born in New York in 1928, was a career nanny and secret photographer whose 100,000-plus photos remained hidden until after her death in 2009 in Chicago.

In 2007, some of Maier's photographs and negatives were purchased by historian John Maloof for US$380 at an auction of her possessions that was held to recover her debts, and he put them into storage for two years.

He was looking up her name one day, when he found her obituary and discovered that she had died just a few days before. Since then, he has been publicizing her work and is now seeking to produce a book and documentary about her life and art.

Since 2009, Maier's photographs have been featured in almost 100 exhibitions in 24 countries, and are now on an Asian tour that includes South Korea, China, and for the first time, Taiwan.

Maier's work shows the contrasting lives of people of different socioeconomic statuses, while also capturing moments of joy and tenderness on the city streets, said Art Angle Corp., which organized the Taiwan exhibition.

The most intriguing photos, however, are Maier's self-portraits, which show her staring impassively at herself in mirrors, windows and other reflective surfaces, said Art Angle CEO Abel Lin (林子銘).

Her photographs from the 1970s take on vivid colors, giving more life and spontaneity to the subjects, he said, adding that the exhibition explores the "value of humans."

Lin said he hopes the photography exhibition and Maier's story will encourage people to explore "the reason we take photos."

While Taiwan has no shortage of photographers and camera equipment, the majority of people do not know why they take pictures and are reluctant to review their own work, he said.

The "Vivian Maier, Street Photographer" exhibition is being held at Songshan Cultural and Creative Park Warehouse No.1 until Sept. 6 at an admission price of NT$280 (US$9.50).

(By Yeh Kuan-yin and intern Melissa Wu)


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