Updated: Nov 9, 2022
Vivian Maier (1926-2009) nanny from Chicago/New York is one of the greatest photographic discoveries of the 21st Century and you can now see an exhibition of her work at the Milton Keynes gallery.
Duration: 11 June - 25 September 2022
Opening Times: Tuesday – Sunday | 10am–5pm ( Closed Mondays )
Café, bar & shop: open late: Tuesday, Friday & Saturday to 7.30pm
Cost: From (free to £11.50) (Tuesday £1 for MK residents - which may make those days busy?) Location: MK Gallery, 900 Midsummer Blvd, Milton Keynes, MK9 3QA
Parking: I would suggest you park at the Centre MK Multi storey
So lets get to the crux of the article!
Firstly I should point out I am a HUGE Vivian Maier fan so I am very biased regarding her work however I did expect a lot from this exhibition and based on the MK Gallery web site info I was prepared for disappointment - but boy was I wrong and did they deliver!
If you miss this exhibition you are mad! - I personally thought it was superb
So now that I have got that out of the way lets go over what you can expect from a visit to the MK Gallery. The place was easy to find and the parking I have suggested is very close to the gallery and surprisingly cheap. The reception at the gallery is very underwhelming, as we were met by a member of staff at a folding table who checked our tickets, and it all looked quite amateurish. We had pre-booked our tickets on line which was easy to do and makes sense if you are not a local.
As they checked our tickets we could see into the gallery and at this point I was a little concerned! It look like a very small selection of images?
On entering the gallery we were greeted by the initial hall of images but instantly could instantly see that the exhibition progressed back through several rooms and was much much big than anticipated.
The exhibition comprises of around 150 images with 3/4 being monochrome square format images that have obviously been shot on a twin lens Roliflex. The other 1/3 of the images are colour and standard landscape format.
As you wander around you will be able to hear the voice of Miss Maier as her audio recordings are played as you wander around the exhibition
All of the prints are beautifully printed, mounted and thoughtfully hung to show the work to its fullest extent.
Throughout the gallery there are several testimonies from famous photographers regarding the work of Miss Maier. 50% of the images do have a short description at the side of them and these comments are very well produced and shed both social and technical light on the image.
The Black & White images are split into a few sections with images of children and self portraits being collated together. This is Miss Maiers strongest work and covers a wide span of years, with many of her classic images being present in the exhibition. When you see the body of work presented as it should be you discover so much more about the images.
Technical skill of the execution of the shot
The management of the light
How many shots include text in the form of signs and in particular newspapers (to great effect) (how wrong those camera club judges are)
How many of the individuals are captured in isolation
How funny so many of her images are
Notice how many of the self portraits include words - which may tell us more about this mysterious lady
This Black & White section is Vivian Maier at her best and is an absolute treat to wander through.
After you pass through the Black & White images you reach a section of colour images which obviously is her later work. For me this was interesting to see but was nowhere near as strong as the Black & White section. It left me with the impression the she struggled with the change in format and the medium of colour. Also in this section are a selection of cameras and several displays of contact sheets.
The final section does have some Hollywood related images but is primarily for her cine film which is interesting to see. As you watch the films make sure you see the clip of the boy dressed as a box!
You leave to the café area which is quite a simple space but good to grab a coffee and reflect on what you have seen. The shop has very little merchandise relating to the exhibition which is a shame.
In summary This was an absolute treat and for me personally one of the best photographic exhibitions I have seen and is an absolute must see. The Mk Gallery have done a superb job in their presentation of Vivian Maiers work.
The Mk Gallery Comments on Vivian Maier -
Vivian Maier has only recently been revealed as one of the most significant photographers of the 20th century. She was a professional nanny in New York and Chicago for over 40 years but took hundreds of thousands of photographs, which were found when her belongings went to auction in 2007.
From carefree children and glamorous housewives to the homeless and destitute, Maier’s portraits capture the highs and lows of everyday life. Street scenes with shop fronts, arcades and aerial shots use shadows and reflections to capture the improvised moments that make up a community. Smouldering furniture, abandoned toys, tangles of electric cables all set the scene as families, workers and commuters go about their daily business.
Maier presents a view of America that is as eclectic as it is intimate and piercing. Her craft and vision far surpassed that of any part-time hobbyist and although considered reclusive, she produced many experimental self-portraits. As with all her work, these images are infused with the wit, humour and deep sense of humanity that has attracted a cult following since Maier’s emergence after the Oscar-nominated documentary Finding Vivian Maier (2013).
The exhibition at MK Gallery features over 140 black and white and colour photographs, as well as film and audio which reveal the breadth of Maier’s work and her fascination for observing and recording everyday life.