Opening: Apr 25th 2013 from 6pm
Show: Apr 26th until June 29th 2013
Fifty One Fine Art Photography is showing two shows simultaneously: Vivian Maier (basement) and Saul Leiter (ground floor). The exhibitions are not correlated with each other.
Fifty One Fine Art Photography proudly presents the first exhibition in Belgium of the work of Vivian Maier (USA, 1926-2009). Her undeveloped body of work was recently discovered by chance and until today the whereabouts of Vivian Maier herself remain restricted: she worked most of her adult life as a nanny, had an eccentric character and was a photographer extraordinaire in her spare time. She captured mid-century America in black & white, mostly people on the margins in urban settings like New York and Chicago.
Up till 2007 her photographic oeuvre was completely unknown. It was a young Chicago, real estate agent, John Maloof who discovered her marvellous street photography: boxes completely stashed with negative rolls were auctioned off at a small, local auction house. He hoped to find relevant visual data for a neighbourhood history book he was co-producing. After scanning the negatives, the images had no editorial value for his book. Nevertheless Maloof was intrigued by what he saw and decided to reconstruct this body of work he had in front of him.
Vivian Maier’s visual language reflects the peculiarities in the streets. Often she recorded the less fortunate citizens in the rich America of the 50s and 60s: children, blacks, disabled and unemployed people. Her compositional and artistic gaze wasn’t impulsive, but rather refined and self-assured. Through her photography the spectator can notice that she scrutinized the comfort zone of her subjects, in a way their anonymous drama grabs the viewer. The ‘reflections’ of her subjects in window shops to compose a visual language between reality and illusion, is also an important feature in her work.
In the mid-1970s she started to shoot with a 35mm color camera. From the early 1950s until the mid-1990s she made approximately 100.000 photos.
John Maloof’s investigation also brought some aspects of her identity to light. In 1926 she’s born in New York City, but soon after her birth she moved to France with her French mother, before settling in New York in 1951.
Interviewing some of her former employers, mostly in the suburbs of Chicago, Maloof learned that she was a fiercely private individual. She had a peculiar personality and no family they knew off. It was in her leisure time that she secretly roamed the streets with her Rolleiflex camera constantly around her neck.
With no evidence of a formal training as a photographer, Vivian Maier’s work unravels a great quality. Her precise timing and framing the spontaneity of street scenes captured in a controlled play of light reveals a master photography of a bygone era from urban American city life.
Today Maloof estimates that only a fraction of her work is been developed and is continuing to archive the rolls. Nevertheless her oeuvre is enthusiastically received worldwide and already included in several exhibitions in the United States and in Europe.
Black & White
Fifty One Fine Art Photography is proud to present a new solo show of Saul Leiter (USA, b.1923). A selection of his early black & white photographs, including unpublished ones, from the 50s and 70s will be presented. Although Leiter is mostly known for his contributions to the field of color photography, in which he played a pioneering role and developed a distinct visual language, his black & white photographs are as much witness to his incredible photographic genius as his work in color. Notwithstanding the absence of color, which often causes the image to be more confronting, Leiter’s distinct style combining an abstract language with soft graduations is already visible.
Initially formed as a painter, Leiter practices painting and photography in tandem throughout his artistic career. This dynamic has had a clear impact on his artistic gaze and he created a new visual rhythm. His typical visual language is one of abstraction: he compresses spatial dynamics, obstructs sights, and gives up the centered perspective. His painterly sensibility is clearly visible in the soft and unsaturated contrasts that are inherent in his photographs. Moreover, his use of reflections makes his compositions more shattered, more tangled.
Leiter’s early black & white photographs capture the energetic street life of New York City in the late 1940s en 50s based upon his own individual experiences and personal perspectives on the places and people he encountered.
Regardless the medium, Saul Leiter’s artistic gaze always ‘composes’ the image. His exquisite visual style is already noticeable in his early back & white photography of the ‘50s. Today, his photographic oeuvre is still only partially developed. As such, there is a collection of negatives that has remained undeveloped for all these years.