You were cruel, Vivian

by DRM


That was a mean choice, giving her the mirror, pointing the camera past her fleshy arm.

You aren’t being ambiguous.  You don’t like looking at her but you want to photograph her.  She’s a Gorgon; her hair is filled with snakes and if we look her in the eyes we freeze to stone.

You say the privilege of art is to be cruel?  That you bear witness to what you see, that your camera can’t lie, that you had to follow your passion?

That’s hard to answer.  When I look at this photograph, I flinch and want to look away.  Something that you did doesn’t work.  I can’t put my finger on it.  I know that there’s something gratuitous.  You were cruel here, Vivien, and I can’t tell whether you meant to be or not.

Vivian Maier took more than 100,000 photographs over five decades.  Her work was unknown during her lifetime.  You can learn more about this American original and view selections of her photos at the website