Tuesday, November 10, 2015

tagging an archive (and Vivian Maier)

An excellent talk tonight at Duke by Abigail Solomon-Godeau, on the the discovery and promotion and ownership tussles over Vivian Maier's photographs - most of them street photographs taken in Chicago in the 1950s-70s, though some of the most intriguing ones are self-portraits.  Clearly she was a strange, self-protective, and increasingly mentally unstable woman, who took photographs compulsively, as though confirming all the time that she had some claim of existence in the world. A S-G did a great job of debunking any idea that she was any true outsider, making outsider art.

But I do wish that she'd said less about the woman, and more about the images.  I became intrigued (after a month or so working hard on documentary photography - about the implications, too, for archiving.  In all, the Maier archive (if only one could have access to it) is about the same size as the FSA archive - and that's archived only with the barest facts of subject matter.  But these images seem to me to cry out for quirkier forms of taxonomy, so that they can be searched using gestures for example, rather than makes of cars.  Of course that would be a lengthy, subjective, perhaps (and ideally?) even contradictory exercise, but it might be more fun, and more revelatory, untimately, about cities in mid C20th America, than delving into Maier's psyche.

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