Found at auction: the unseen photographs of a legend that never was

vivian maier

This is epic: a Chicago real estate developer purchased at auction, sight unseen, a box of 100,000 photo negatives by an unknown photographer for less than $400. He started developing and printing them, and realized he had the work of one of the best (and most prolific) street photographers of the 20th century, Vivian Maier.

maier hands

Who the hell is Vivian Maier? Exactly. She mostly worked as a nanny and, according to everyone who knew her, was an intensely private person. She never showed any of her photos to anyone, and her closest friends had no idea she even took photos.

maier hotse

Look, no one becomes a photographer for the money, unless you want to take photos of tastefully-lit tubes of toothpaste for the rest of your life. (By which I mean, work in advertising, until your love of the medium is as dead as your soul.) And most people don’t anticipate they’re going to be as famous as Diane Arbus or Henri Cartier-Bresson. You do it because you can’t imagine not doing it. If I died tomorrow, I would be content to know that I put things into the world that wouldn’t have been there without me.

But this woman never showed her photos to anyone. That blows my mind, because I love to share my work, and I think that’s pretty common across all artistic media. Not because you want people to flatter and admire you, but because humans are social creatures; when you make something it’s only natural to go “Look what I made!”

And she never even had them printed for herself, which leaves me wondering what her motivation was. Was it just, as the writer of the article suggests, about “her curiosity, her love for her city and the thrill of taking a picture”? Was her privacy actually a shyness or a fear/dislike of intimacy, and did the camera allow her to observe her world while also keeping it at arm’s length? Or was it the opposite, did the camera allow her to get closer to her subjects because she had a reason to? (It seems like people used to be much more accepting of a stranger rolling up on them with a camera. Now everyone’s paranoid their image will be Photoshopped and mocked on the internet.)

I guess we’ll never know, because Vivian Maier died in 2009. Everyone who knows her says it’s probably for the best, because she would have absolutely hated the attention. Whatever her reasons for keeping her photos from the world, I’m glad we’re seeing them now.

The man who bought the negatives decided, naturally, to make a documentary: Finding Vivian Maier, due out sometime this year.

Link to the full article.

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mini Mississippi road trip: Kodak Ektar in the LC-A+


690526-R1-35-00A, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

Baptist Church in Rodney.


690526-R1-29-5A, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

Inside the church.


690526-R1-20-15A, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

Methodist church in Rodney. If you look to the left of the wrought iron tip, you can make out the cannon ball embedded in the wall.


690526-R1-16-19A, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

Inside the Methodist church.


690526-R1-09-26A, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

The Windsor Ruins.


690526-R1-11-24A, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

Bases of pillars at the Ruins.

I’d like to go back to the Windsor Ruins in high spring, like maybe a couple of months from now, when all those trees are blooming.

I didn’t finish the roll in Mississippi, so a few days ago I went to the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Lafayette. Of all the churches I’ve seen in Louisiana, that’s still my favorite, even more than St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans. I haven’t been there since before I moved to Louisiana, and I’ve only ever taken digital shots with it, not film.


690526-R1-00-36A, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

This is a photo I took to compare and contrast with one of my favorite digital shots I’ve ever taken. The most obvious difference is depth of field, with film I couldn’t get both the angel and the church in focus, and I chose the angel.

The digital photo is visually cleaner, I cropped it extensively–something I’m reluctant to do with film, unless it just really needs it, like if someone’s arm is sticking into the photo or something–and I also crouched down so the granite surface of the tomb was level with the horizon of the photo. You don’t see any of the cemetery behind the angel, just the church.

And yet I’m hard-pressed to say which photo I like better. The digital shot is probably “better”; but the film shot has a certain texture that’s more pleasing to me, a contrast and a sense of what that particular moment in time was actually like. It’s not as “pretty” but it seems more “real”.

I guess which photograph you like more depends on what you, the viewer, are looking to get out of it.

In other photography news, I’ve discovered a couple of Etsy shops that specialize in vintage Soviet goods, and soon I will be the proud owner of a (film-tested) Smena 8M, manufactured by the LOMO factory in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg again) around the time that I was begging my parents to be allowed to stay up late enough to watch this edgy new cop show called Miami Vice. The Smena is a weird mix of cheap plastic housing, confusing manual controls, and a surprisingly good quality leaf shutter (like my beloved Arguses) and triple-element coated lens. I can’t wait to get my hands on it.

The lens cap has a hammer & sickle bas-relief! It’s weird to feel nostalgic over something that you spent your childhood fearing, but I guess the key word is “childhood”. Besides, I was never one of those Gen X kids who worried about nuclear war. I always figured I’d die instantly, living so close to San Francisco and Silicon Valley, so what’s the point? I had more important things on my mind, like mastering Ms. Pac-Man and finding just the right shade of florescent blue jelly shoes.

They also have Leicas that were released in honor of Lenin’s 90th birthday that look BAD ASS, but those are currently a wee bit out of my range. I’m keeping them bookmarked, though.

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shorter* george w. bush: “kanye west is a big mean poopy-head”

George W. Bush called Kanye West’s “George W. Bush doesn’t care about black people” statement the worst moment of his entire presidency. Not 9-11. Not the sending of thousands of soldiers to die just so he could prove to his daddy who’s the bigger man. Not the hemorrhaging of jobs and money after 8 years of prosperity.

And not even the fact that he let an entire city drown. Hurricane Katrina wasn’t the worst moment of his presidency, being accused of racism was the worst moment.

Well, in Bush’s defense, I don’t think he particularly doesn’t care about black people. He doesn’t care about anyone who’s not a wealthy, corrupt crony of his. A lot of the people he doesn’t care about just happen to be black. So Kanye West was only wrong in that he didn’t point out all of the many subsets of people George W. Bush also doesn’t care about.

I suddenly feel the urge to tell Taylor Swift to sack up and stop whining.

*”Shorter” format stolen from Sadly, No!

live fast, die young, don’t record embarassingly awful “rock” music

A delightful website that I recently discovered is Awesomely Bad Lyrics. The writer, BLB, does a line-by-line mocking of some truly terrible lyrics, mostly of songs from the ’80s. Which, as anyone who grew up in that decade (like myself), knows was like the Golden Age of terrible, nonsensical lyrics; not to mention weird things that got shoehorned in simply because they rhymed — case in point: the “Have a banana” line from Barry Manilow’s “Copacabana”. (Which is from 1978, but is my favorite example of the genre.)

Anway, today he did Starship’s “We Built This City”, which made me jump for joy, as it’s probably one of the 10 worst rock songs ever written. For fuck’s sake, it has a traffic report stuck in the middle of the song. BLB didn’t even touch that, and there was still plenty of awfulness to make fun of. (Technically it’s not a lyric, so I can’t fault him for ignoring it.)

Someone always playing corporation games / Who cares, they’re always changing corporation names

Yeah! Take that, CORPORATIONS!!! How dare you establish yourself as a legal entity for the purpose of doing any kind of business! You suck!!!! Except, of course, for RCA Records, the good people that marketed and distributed this song.

I must admit to some personal bias in my loathing for this, or indeed any Starship song. As someone named Sarah who did most of my growing up in the ’80s, I’ve had to endure a lifetime of people wailing “SAAARAH! SAAAAAAAAAAAAARAH! STORMS ARE BREWIN’ IN YOUR EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEYES!!!” in my face, then actually acting like 1) Probably no one’s ever done that before, amiright?!?! HA HA I’M SO CLEVER; 2) It’s funny, instead of deserving of a karate chop to the throat; 3) Butthurt when I don’t fall down laughing and wet myself with glee at their cleverness.

The ’80s and ’90s were the high point of this crime against Sarahdom, but it still occasionally happens to this day. My tactic in dealing with it for the past few years has taken advantage of my youthful appearance and people’s tendency to underestimate my age: I give them a blank look and ask “What are you doing?” It’s very satisfying to watch them flail about at having the rug yanked out from under their feet and mumble “Oh, well there was this song… in the ’80s… umm, never mind.”

I feel it’s only fair to warn Grace Slick, since she’s like 187 years old, that if I ever encounter her, she’s got a hearty punch in the face coming her way. She’s really the poster child for choking on your own vomit and dying before 30. (Umm, if you’re a rock star. Not so much if you’re like, a kindergarten teacher or bus driver.) What if Jimi Hendrix had survived the ’60s to team up with Bernie Taupin and make videos in which the Lincoln Memorial comes to life and ROCKS OUT!?

susan atkins was from san jose. thanks for repping the bay area, sadie.

Susan “Sadie Mae Glutz” Atkins has died of brain cancer. Atkins, of course, was the Manson Family member who actually killed Sharon Tate in 1969. She later told a cellmate that she’d wanted to cut the fetus out of the 8 months pregnant Tate, but there wasn’t time. She also complained about how much her hands hurt afterwards, because her knife kept striking bone.

Earlier this month, Atkins’ husband — who married her after she went to prison — asked for “mercy”. He wanted her to be released so she wouldn’t have to die in prison. The courts showed her exactly as much mercy as she showed Sharon Tate: Tate begged for her life and told Atkins she wanted to have her baby, and Atkins infamously answered “Bitch, I have no mercy for you”.

Everyone always talks about that, but the thing that Atkins said that’s always chilled me the most was something she said when she was testifying during the indictment of Manson, Krenwinkle, and Van Houten. The prosecution showed her a photo of Steven Parent’s (the teenager who was shot in his car as he drove down the driveway) corpse and asked her to identify it. And she calmly answered “Yes, that is the thing I saw in the car”. The thing. Not the person or even the body. In Helter Skelter, Vincent Buglioisi claims there were audible gasps in the courtroom. He said he was glad when she recanted, because the idea of offering her a deal made him sick.

That always spoke volumes to me. And it’s why I never quite believed her claims of sorrow and regret. She might have disavowed Manson and his ideas, but referring to Parent’s dead body as a thing always struck me as purely sociopathic. And you can’t cure that; you can’t force someone to grow a soul.

Plus, she had the exact same Crazy Eyes as recently as 2001 that she had in 1969:

1969

1969

2001

2001

this pretty much sums it up

kanye_swift

via this dude.

mega shark vs. giant octopus

I know all the hipsters are excited for this epically terrible straight-to-DVD crapfest starring Debbie “Call Me Deborah Now”* Gibson and some cheap CGI. They’ll probably watch it wearing trucker hats and drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon.

But to me, it looks like a bunch of suits from SciFi got together and went “Kids today are into ridiculously bad bullshit, let’s do something with that!” It looks this terrible on purpose, and that kind of takes the fun out of it. It’s the difference between getting $20 for mowing the lawn and taking the trash out, and just stumbling over a $20 bill in the parking lot. It’s not as fun if you gotta work for it!

I think this is the Snakes on a Plane effect. But you ain’t ever gonna top SoaP, people. Stop trying. That was lightning in a bottle. Although I will admit to being mildly curious about the scene with the airplane. Apparently “Mega” means that this shark can fly, breathe out of water, and digest metal?

*Nevah!

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