Quote Originally Posted by Pioneer View Post
I agree that we are not attempting to "slam" anyone's work. Not mine, yours, Maier's, or anyone elses. That much we can agree on.

However, I am still confused about this holistic rubric that we are supposed to be applying to Vivian Maier or HCB (or Weston, Adams, et al.) I will be the first to admit that I am not an expert on what "art" really is but I do know that there are those out there who consider Steve Ditko's work on Spyderman to be great "art." What standard of performance has been used in that case is probably up for discussion as well. But, if you consider art to be, the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, then in my opinion, Vivian Maier's work certainly qualifies IMHO.

Now, where she stands in relation to other photographic artists is a completely different question, but that seems to be where this thread has been going. It has been stated that she is not in the same category as Henri Bresson, and because of that she does not qualify as "great." That, IMHO, moves our discussion away from any "artistic rubric" and turns it into a popularity contest instead. I do believe that much of her work was considerably above the norm, so I consider her to be a great artist. Now, is she as great, or greater, than some of the other artists whose names have been mentioned? I do not know.

To go any further I guess we need to know what standard of performance needs to be met to reach greatness?

I am not an art critic. I took some photography fine art classes in high school and college mostly because they were required. But I ended up really liking photography. So don't view what I am saying as coming from someone who has studied most of the universe of fine art photography and is qualified to pontificate about it.

I just have faith in the equipment and slightly above average amateur photographers. I think based on what little of Maier's work I've seen that any slightly above average amateur who held the camera straight, focused, and produced over 100,000 negatives would have a similar level of success or not too far below. The question I have to ask is do people think that statement is wrong? I am separating the pictures from the artist. In my opinion are the images nice? Yes. Do I think the artist is head an shoulders above her peers? No. To me for this type of photography which is in no way experimental or avante garde you have to be a cut above to be extraordinary.

Seriously look at her images. In the majority of them she points the camera right at the subject. She places the subject in the center of the frame and she snaps. She seems to use available light exclusively. For most of the images nothing experimental happens with composition or lighting. Not that there is anything wrong with that. Frankly I advocate much of her approach to picture taking for amateurs. Get a good camera (ie Rollei not Lubitel). Get good film (ie fresh B&W not expired third rate E-6). Hold the camera steady and straight (ie give 2 seconds of thought to what you are doing). Take this meat and potatoes approach to photography and I guarantee you 50 years later when you see your negatives and prints you will have no regrets. But make no mistake that is a very safe and conservative way to shoot. You will get a bunch of competent technically good pictures. I got lambasted in another thread for strongly advocating for this approach initially for amateurs. And here we see what I was talking about in all it's glory. It's competent. It's nice. It's timeless. But given the denominator, 100,000+ negatives, I can't at this time sign off and say the practitioner was head and shoulders above less prolific snappers that took more chances. Maybe when the totality of her work is developed and printed or at least scanned and we can look at it in its entirety I will feel more comfortable putting her in the Parthenon. At this time I've seen <0.1% of her work. And what I've seen is not going off in all sorts of unexpected experimental directions.

This is just my opinion. I hope I didn't hurt anyone's feelings. Your opinions are valid too.