I was very fortunate in my four decades voyage as a camera salesman in Chicago to have met some very incredible photojournalists that unfortunately have now left us, and hopefully are now making trillions of photographs in heaven, I am speaking about Declan Haun, Archie Lieberman, Lee Balterman and Arnold Crane, (who I recently found out about). However, the one photographer I never had the privilege to meet was Miss Maier, Miss Vivian Maier, and certainly not by what she despised, Viv. However during my beginning photography learnings at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois from 1965-1970, I had only one spiritual photographic advisor who influenced me the most , Miss Dorothea Lange. Like many of my fellow photography majors, we were all searching on what kind of photographers we would become, I never once thought about what kind of future income I would make, or what really was instore for me, all I knew was that I loved taking photographs. At first I was thrown for a loop during my first week, one strange photo instructor, praised my first photo assignment, told me that one of my pictures, a red fire hydrant had a real artistic flair, and incredible resemblance of a flamboyant penis.
I left the class in tears, and had to speak to one of the photography instructors, a true friend, and not only had a P.H.D. in Education, but certainly a legendary photojournalist of Souther Illinois, Doctor (Doc) William C. Horell(“Coal Mining In Southern Illinois).He immediately handed me a handkerchief, and when I babbled my story that I did not come to Carbondale Illinois from Chicago to learn how to be a “pee-pee” photographer, he almost got a heart attack from laughing so hard. He looked at my photograph and assured me that it looked like a fire hydrant, and it might be difficult to take it to bed.
My tears started to dry up, and finally I found some one I could ask about my photography destiny. He asked me about my background and seeing that I had cerebral palsy, he wanted to know if I really needed to major in photography at SIU, he felt that even for himself having a P.H.D in education, it never stood in the way of him being a photographer. Never the less I felt his concern, and I figured out that even if I could not make money in something I loved to do, I could always make a living as a camera salesman. Yep, I spent some four decades working in some of Chicago’s finest camera stores, Altman Camera, Central Camera, Pallas Photo Supply, Standard Photo, Colonial Camera of La Grange, Illinois, and my last camera store employment, Calumet Photographic. I think “Doc” Horrell knew I would be a camera salesman for the rest of my life, and a probably a good one. He liked my photos, insisted that I get a Nikon F, and read everything I could about my new mentor Dorothea Lange.
I started to read every thing I could find about Dorothea Lange, and her husband, Dr. Paul Taylor, they wrote and captured photographs from 1935-1939, for what was later called the Farm Security Administration, the plight of our country’s poor and (certainly the unforgotten), displaced farm families and what were known as “sharecroppers”, our migrant workers. who I refer as the Taylors did, made the government get of their asses and focus in helping help all our stricken families in America, ” The Dust Bowl Years.”
As Dr. Taylor wrote and carried her cameras, it was Dorothea Lange’s camera philosophy and her missions in shooting, that has influenced me so much, and have no intention in it to my grave, but unlike Vivian Maier, should be shared. Dorothea Lange always realize that the human face is really the universal language in her photos, a Japanese little boy smiling pretty much has the same meaning of that given from an American little girl also making a smile, next she believed in the hands off approach-no manipulation of the subject(she would not be a fan of Adobe Photoshop if she was with us today, just photograph as you see it, and lastly what I think Vivian Maier instored in her subjects, photograph the things you love and of course the part of life you mostly hate.
What I see in Vivian’s photographs is her attempt to stop time, freeze the moment, and question her existence, why am I part of a world that has so many diversities, and why am I here, and mostly how do I accept my finality. Strangely at times I have felt this as I point my camera at someone or some place I know nothing about, and unlike Ms, Maier are my photographs going to make a difference in other people’s lives. It is quite obvious that Miss Maier had no intention of being a professional photographer, or what she was taking pictures had to matter to others, however what I feel that it was affecting her, unfortunately she did not want to share her intentions with the world.
Most of us are probably thinking that Vivian Meier could of been recognized as the world’s new Dorothea Lange, her photographs definitely command thousands of dollars as they are doing know, certainly she could of been a prominent photography instructor giving lectures around the world, museums screaming to have their walls covered with her work(which is happening now), and of course not being that mystery woman who 100,000’s of negatives, and cameras and worthy possessions were discovered in a storage locker. I feel the greatest photographic impact that Vivian Maier has made in my life that I do not want my cameras, photographs and negatives found in a soon to be auctioned storage locker, or that my wife will have no choice to throw out my photo junk after having an uneventful garage sale. I just recently discovered some of my wonderful photos, (what I refer as my photo storage locker)that I had on FLICKR, from some ten years ago. Sadly I cannot tell you were are all of my negatives are, or what I have on photo cd’s, or the 100 of flash cards that are scattered around the house, but I know that the clock is ticking and I am starting my new photographic journey. I am making an attempt make my own photographic storage on the world, wide , web. Please visit my new website .
I want to thank Vivian Maier, John Maloof and Charlie Siskel, on their recently nominated Academy Award winning documentary “Finding Vivian Maier”, their efforts are not only mentoring me,but hopefully the millions of other photographers that we have an obligation to ourselves as well to the rest of the world is first to recognize our Gift to be photographers and secondly most of all, not to have our eye-seeing, heart-feeling, and used breaths expire in vain.
NEVER TO BE AUCTIONED OFF TO THE HIGHEST BIDDER.