Sunday, October 19, 2014

Vivian Maier and [Nothingness]

Maier, Vivian. “Undated.” Street 1. Web. 19 Oct. 2014. 

            This photograph taken by Vivian Maier showcases the fact that space is always existent, even in the most obscure forms. In this image, the main subject or focus is definitely not the space of the background but the wires and coils attached to the horizontal blocks of wood. Yet, the presence of nothingness in the picture is unavoidable as it can be seen through the gaps and space between the wires, coils, and blocks of wood. The significance of space is inevitable as it aids in defining the main objects of the picture.
            What roles do space and nothingness play in respect to the other objects or subjects in a photograph? Without space, presence could not be defined, and without the presence of physical objects and subjects, there would be no space. Each of these ideas is used to define one other, because when one does not exist within an image, the other does. It is a relationship of balance, or give and take, in which one cannot exist without the other, but they cannot be simultaneously present at the same point of a picture.
            It can be said that objects define space or that the opposite is true. Sometimes, the main focus of an image is the space while for others conversely, the subject is a physical object. The distinction is based upon the intention of the photographer as well as the interpretation of the viewer.

Maier, Vivian. “Canada.” Street 2. Web. 19 Oct. 2014. 

            This image of Vivian Maier’s depicts a pile of empty wooden crates, some stacked on top of one another, like on the left edge of the picture, while others form a downward slope, as if they had fallen down. It appears that many of the boxes are vacant, based on the black, square, rectangular, and diamond shapes that are created within the image, so it can be assumed that the rest are unfilled as well, since they do not seem to serve a purpose. The picture promotes an interesting concept of the idea that blank, or empty, spaces can actually construct shape(s).
The crates are filled with nothing, yet the pile of boxes has a towering form. How is it possible that the stacking of nothingness atop one another can create a something?
This is due to the way that a space is formed, contributing to its creation of shape. In this image, nothing is finite and ends with the walls of the boxes. It is the edges of the square forms that define the nothingness in the entirety of the picture. This definition distinguishes the existent from the nonexistent and describes the shape that is built from the objects but eaten away by the emptiness.
If one viewed this image with all the blank spaces cut out, would they be looking at the same picture? What significance does emptiness have in its role of defining the shape of an image or the cohesive object created by smaller parts?
The spaces formed by the objects of an image inform the viewer of the presence of emptiness. Without that nothingness, whether something existed or not would be unknown.

Maier, Vivian. “New York, NY.” Street 2. Web. 19 Oct. 2014. <>.

            In this picture by Vivian Maier, a chair that does not seem to have finished burning sits on a sidewalk near the road, facing a garbage can. The chair is evidently falling apart, as some of its fabric, as well as other pieces, lay around it on the ground. This image captures the object in a moment during which its main action is deterioration. The smoke rising from the top of the chair confirms the burning theory as well as its incompletion. It seems as though space is in the process of being created due to the effects and power of fire. How can nothingness be observed within and/or predicted of an object based on its circumstances?
            There are two factors that indicate the creation of space: one is the act of burning that the chair is subject to and the other is the placement of the chair, the fact being that it is looking directly at a trash can. A fire can destroy many things, including the wood and fabric of a chair. Because of this and the continual burning of the chair, it is anticipated that the chair will soon turn into nothingness and become more space in space. Moreover, garbage cans are typically for items that people consider worthless, which is why those things are removed in order to alleviate the trash can from holding objects of no value, therefore creating emptiness. Space can be indefinite and its creation predicted due to the almost infinite methods of obtaining it. Space can be created by moving, tearing, scratching, et cetera, and it is due to this multiplicity that space is full of complexity.

Maier, Vivian. “Undated.” Street 3. Web. 19 Oct. 2014. 

            Vivian Maier’s image above clearly demonstrates the idea that nothingness, or space, can shape and/or define what it is that the viewer sees. In this particular picture, a metal structure resembling a type of tall, guarding fence is missing pieces of the mesh fabric that is connecting its metal bars. Due to this, large holes in between the poles are created, causing the viewer to see more of the sky in the background. How does the presence of space dictate what is seen as the subject(s) or object(s) of an image?
            The contrast of the light sky to the darker mesh fabric is evidently intentional, as Maier, as the photographer, had the choice to take a photograph of one or the other but decided to incorporate them both in the same picture for comparative reasons. If Maier had wanted the image to be about the metal structure, she would have taken a picture of the sections of still-existing mesh fabric connected to the metal bars on either side; however, she chose to incorporate the spaces in between. On the other hand, if the photograph was meant to be about the sky, then why have a large metal fence-like structure obscuring the view?
            This way, when a viewer examines the image, the focus can be divided between the points of object and nothingness. It seems to send the message that space is just as vital as presence in terms of defining the intention of a photo. That being said, this specific picture is also affected by the perspective of the photographer and how the sky lies behind the “fence.” The cutout spaces make it seem as if Maier wanted the viewer to see the sky through the eyes of the mesh and the metal bar structure.

Maier, Vivian. “1963. Chicago, IL.” Street 3. Web. 19 Oct. 2014. <>.

            This photograph taken by Vivian Maier reveals that the presence of an object can also enhance space. It depicts a long puddle whose surface reflects the lit up signs of adjacent shops on the sidewalk. The reflection created by the puddle adds another dimension that makes it seem as if there is a world of life beneath the ground. This is due to the second factor of an absence of color that allows the reflection to expand the subject of the image. But to what extent does the unintentional space created by an object enhance the subject itself?
            The reflection of the signs on the surface of the puddle clarifies what the main focus of the picture is. Without the puddle, the subject is unclear because there is a broad range of objects to choose from, with all the lights, stores, cars, et cetera. With the puddle, the focus is evidently the puddle; however, the reflection of the puddle consumes it, becoming the main focus of the photograph. The reflected lights stand out against the dark pool of water, as if they were being highlighted in some way, when the glow is apparently natural. This reflection of lights puts the focus on the lights above, creating some mystery and misunderstanding as the reflected lights cannot be seen above. It results in the back and forth inspection of the lights and their reflection in order to determine which ones form the true subject of the image.  

Maier, Vivian. “April 20, 1956. Chicago, IL.” Street 3. Web. 19 Oct. 2014. <>.

            The combination of space and light can result in shadows that expand on the subject or main focus of a picture, as seen in this photograph by Vivian Maier. This image shows a staircase on the side of a building with light shining through in between its steps, resulting in a twin image in shadow. The light is sourced from above and appears to come from the sun, creating shadows of the objects below them. The light finds the smallest, thinnest of spaces in order to create a shadow that to some degree mimics this nothingness.
To what accuracy, though, do the shadows capture the essence of the space and nothingness between the objects in the picture?
The shadows created from space seemingly elongate the original spaces, giving a greater depth and size to the objects that they have alone. The shadows are like extensions of the objects themselves; however, they seem to be more the subject than their physical partners. In this photograph, Maier seems to be focused on the shadows, but includes the objects in order for the viewer to have a reference to the original spaces. Just as in the prior picture in which objects can create space, space has the ability to form objects in shadows with the help of light. The fact that something visible can be created by light through space goes beyond the scientific physics of the world’s operations and supports the idea photography needs space as much as it needs objects and subjects.

Maier, Vivian. “Canada.” Street 4. Web. 19 Oct. 2014. 

            This picture of Vivian Maier’s that shows a car sitting in between two tall, thin trees on the edge of a body of water is a classic representation of space. The blank nature of the background due to the light color of the sky clearly defines, or at least narrows down, what the subject(s) of the image is. It appears to be either the car or the trees on either side of it, but for some reason, the main focus could possibly be the nothingness in the direct center of the photograph. There is something about the space in between the two trees and how it is shaped by their posture that hints that it is more significant than the trees themselves. Furthermore, the hood of the car also impacts the space and creates a specific shape.

            Is it possible for nothingness to be the subject of a picture when there are other, physical objects within it? What does it take for a space to be the superior subject in an image? Since the nothingness in this photograph is so large and consumes the majority of the picture, it is quite evident why it is the subject in this particular image. However, the fact that it is also in the middle of the photograph contributes to its significance as the main point or focus.