Vivian Maier at the Musée du Luxembourg: discovering a brilliant photographer

Mysterious. Brilliant. Tenacious. Vivian Maier (1926-2009) has been full of praise since the accidental discovery in 2007 of her numerous, messy negatives at her home. The American photographer, unknown during her lifetime, has since aroused respect and admiration. The exhibitions to salute his work are multiplying. The Luxembourg Museum is organizing a major exhibition based on unpublished images and objects for 4 months.

Anne Morin, exhibition curator and director of diChroma photography, describes her work “imposing, dense, luminous and brilliant.” It consists of more than 120,000 photographic images, super 8 and 16 mm films, various recordings, scattered photographs, and a multitude of undeveloped films, “like so many fascinating finds”, adds the commissioner. For her, no doubt: “This passion which inhabits him and which will become an almost daily activity, elevates him today to the rank of the greatest emblematic photographers of Street Photography, and makes it appear in History alongside Diane Arbus, Robert Frank, Helen Levitt or Garry Winogrand. “

Childhood, the street, life

In black and white then in color, silent before making noise, his rhythmic photographs tell the story of working-class neighborhoods in New York and Chicago. All her life as governess, Vivian Maier took images on the fly with no other goal than to survey the streets and venture into this constantly moving human geography whose fabric is formed by anonymous people who cross each other. Vivian Maier looks at life. She observes it, follows it, sometimes stalks it and leaves nothing to chance. The scenes that she photographs are often anecdotes, coincidences, slips of the real, “residual” moments of social life to which no one pays attention but which nevertheless become the subject of his narrations. Each of his images is located at the very place where the ordinary fails, where the real slips away and becomes extraordinary “, writes Anne Morin, curator of the exhibition.

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Vivian Maier stops on the faces, many children, of which she draws the portraits. They evoke poverty, exhausting work, misery and dark fate. “Maier photographs those that we do not look at, those who do not appear anywhere because relegated to the margins of this world of which they are definitely not part, in the shadow of the great utopia in vogue at that time, that of Dreaming American, brilliant to excess “, comments the commissioner.

Vivian Maier is interested in the details of city dwellers strolling through dilapidated streets. Between those in the background, some waiting, others watching, some pacing, those who fall asleep posed in the shade of nowhere. “Maier makes an inventory of their attitudes, postures, gestures and notes these clues as if they were witnesses to something imminent about to happen.”, describes Anne Morin.

From photography to cinema

Gradually, she switched from photography to cinema. In the early 1960s, movement took hold in the image. “She plays with temporalities by creating kinetic sequences, as if she were transposing the specificities of cinematographic language into that of the photographic image. She uses fragmentation and repetition to simulate movement and simultaneity to indicate the displacement and duration She creates real film sequences with the twelve views of her Rolleiflex camera, thus generating the idea of ​​a linear development of “space-time” specific to cinema “, writes the commissioner. She then films what is happening that escapes the naked eye. “She films in a frontal way, without artifice or editing this reality which is presented to her”, continues the commissioner.

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The exhibition takes place from September 15, 2021 to January 16, 2022 at the Luxembourg Museum in the Senate (rue de Vaugirard, Paris 6th).

Open every day from 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., at night on Mondays until 10 p.m.

Single entry at € 21 (free for children under 25 under certain conditions).

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