I’ve been doing a lot of photography lately, and haven’t had much time for anything else, between that and my actual job. This is from Alviso, a neighborhood in San Jose that used to be a town of its own. It’s five minutes from high-tech Silicon Valley, yet it’s like another world. This building used to be part of the Bayside Canning Co., closed since a long time.
First, the secret teacher stairs. The main staircase in our building is grand, and curved, and takes up most of the main lobby. These unassuming stairs are in the back of the building. For some reason students don’t know that the stairs are there until they are about to graduate after four years. I have no idea why; it’s not like anyone is trying to hide them. The little stairs are a tad scary looking in photos, but in real life they are cool on a hot day, and quiet. Plus, they take you right outside if you want. Not bad.
And then, below, is one of the best compliments I have ever received. When he was two years old, my oldest nephew told his dad, my brother, that “Lotta knows how to play in the sandbox”. That’s a good one too. I mean, what two-year-old doesn’t like a good sandbox, and a positive review from a pro, that has to mean something. But, when a student says that you have taught them how to think… That’s hard to beat. There are a lot of cliches about teaching, but to me, thinking, and talking, is what it’s all about.
When I first heard about Vivian Maier I was super excited. She’s a woman who photographed obsessively all of her adult life, without any recognition, and without ever developing most of her film. After her death her considerable talent was discovered. Her work is amazing in many different ways. It’s documentary, striking, and produced by a very particular mind. Here is a New York Times story and slide show to give you an idea if you haven’t seen her work before.
There are (at least) two movies about Vivian Maier’s life. One was produced by John Maloof, the man who owns the bulk of her negatives. John Maloof has worked hard at promoting Vivian Maier and her work, and he was behind the news stories that surfaced about three years ago. John Maloof’s movie is in theaters right now, and as excited as I’ve been about it, I’ve decided not to see it. It feels like a commercial venture, and it strikes me as odd that a woman who protected her privacy all of her life, shall be making money for someone else. This Boston Globe review of the film is generally positive, but interesting.
The second movie, The Vivian Maier Mystery (available on Amazon and Google Play, and also, at least for the time being, here) was produced by BCC Scotland. This film tells a slightly different story. It puts John Maloof and his actions into perspective, and it asks interesting questions about ownership, fame, and money.
(The image above comes from a story in The New Yorker.)