Posted in Art Criticism

Vivian Maier: Street Photographer Discovered Part 6: "Chicago, Il."

Chicago, Ill.

Thousands, even millions followed her steps years before and years into the future as well. A smartly dressed woman walks a familiar corridor framed by colossal pillars on her left and smooth columns alternating with shiny glass windows on her right. Contrasting horizontal lines of sidewalk, of venetian blinds at half-mast, of long shadows of columns, draw the woman in silent rhythm toward a lighted archway at the end.

In this photograph, Maier captures patterns and textures of daily living – the subject’s womanly curves accented by the flow of fabric, mid- to late-afternoon sun highlights the top of her hat, warming her slightly rounded shoulders and rippling along the gathers of her sashaying skirt as she walks.

Her path, like those who came before and those of us to follow leads to the gateway of light straight ahead. Silhouettes of three women turned inward toward one another can be seen at the end. Perhaps they are her goal – she is meeting them for an early supper. Or perhaps she is alone, always alone, their presence emphasizing her isolation.

Those familiar with Chicago might have a sense (as I did) of déjà vu – knowing that they have walked this woman’s path either in life or in a dream. I experienced that peculiar sensation, that nagging feeling of knowing a place as I viewed this photo at the Cultural Center. Later, walking back to the train station and turning a corner, there it was: the scene Maier captured more than a half-century before. The light nearly the same. The colossal pillars and mirror-like windows and horizontal shadows, the same. The feeling was a bit surreal, yet it was comforting to know that Maier had walked the same steps, taken a breath and made a photograph that was being appreciated so many years later.


I'm a writer, editor, photographer and artist living in rural Southeastern Wisconsin. I grew up in Chicago, made my way to the deep woods of Northern Minnesota and then landed here among the cornfields and cows. It's quite simply my happy place.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s