What with a recent documentary about her life in addition to her exhibits all over the world- including her current one at Barcelona’s own Fundació Foto Colectania– Vivian Maier is having a moment, albeit unintended. An American photographer, she actually never considered herself as such and never shared her photos with the public; rather, she worked her whole life as a nanny in New York City and Chicago. Regardless, with an impressive eye she managed to take over 120,000 pictures that mostly documented the people of the streets she roamed. More than 80 of these photographs are on display at the Fundació Foto Colectania for the summer.
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A Mysterious Talent
A New York native born in 1926, much of Maier’s life actually remains a mystery. What is known is that she hid her photographic talent behind her 40 plus years of nannying, only taking pictures on her days off and never developing them. Her work was only discovered in 2007, shortly before her death, when a Chicago history researcher named John Maloof purchased some “abandoned belongings” of hers at an auction without knowing the depth of their contents. Upon finding the aforementioned 120,000 negatives, Maier’s immense talent was finally revealed to the world. Yet, having died in 2009, her success has been posthumous and, consequently, she has maintained the public’s ignorance about her life. To this day, many of her negatives remain undeveloped.
Style of Photography
Most of Maier’s work depicts anonymous people on the street, with some of her subjects willing and others caught in the act. As described on the Fundació Foto Colectania website, “Her scenes spontaneously capture the peculiarities of the ‘urban America’ in the second half of the twentieth century with a great sense of composition, light and environment, showing a great ability to communicate both humor and tragedy.”
Keeping with the theme of mystery, her own self-portraits never include a direct shot of her face; rather, her own image is always seen through filters: in the reflection of a window, a mirror, an odd object.
The photos on display at Fundació Foto Colectania are from the 1950s-1970s, with the photos before 1970 in black and white and those afterward in color. Most of them were taken in either Chicago or New York City.
About the Fundació
Fundació Foto Colectania is a private, non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation and proliferation of photography. It is a small and modern space consisting of not only the rotating exhibitions but also an immense catalog of Spanish and Portuguese photography from 1950 until the present. In addition to the current exhibitions, the first floor of the building offers a space to hold lectures or activities; the second floor, on top of displaying more of the photography, also houses the library area, a spacious table with computers open to the public, and even free coffee.
It is open Monday-Saturday from 11:00 AM-2:00 PM, and then from 4:00 PM-8:00 PM. The entrance is 3€ for the general public and 2€ for students and people over 65. It is free the first Saturday of the month. Fundació Foto Colectania is located at Julián Romea, 6 near Gràcia metro (Ferrocarrils L6/L7).
The Vivian Maier exhibit started on June 6th and will end on September 10th.