In a fusion of the old and new, analog and digital, Mastergram is a relatively new Tumblr that takes iconic photographs and applies filters from the popular iPhone social app, Instagram. There’s an irony in this exercise, which I find practically blasphemous, because many of the Instagram filters attempt to mimic a pre-digital quality and add a false sense of depth and artistry to often prosaic photos. I was pleased though to see on the site that my all-time favorite photographer Weegee is included. As I previously wrote here, I consider Weegee to be “the godfather of the 21st-century urban blogger.”
As an enormous fan of candid street photography (discovering Cartier-Bresson and Weegee née Arthur Fellig years ago was a revelation for me), I was blown away by both the background story and photographs of Vivian Maier or as Mother Jones described her: “the best street photographer you’ve never heard of.” Maier lived a relatively obscure and anonymous life as a nanny in New York City and then Chicago from the 1950s through 1990s. Never married, her constant companion through her life was her Rolleiflex camera which she used frequently, but apparently she never shared her work with others. It wasn’t until 2007 when John Maloof, 26, purchased a box of Maier’s negatives at an auction house that they came to light. Taken with the quality, he sought out others and ended up collecting more than 100,000 negatives as well as a few thousand rolls of film.
I love this photo of Weegee. It was a revelation when I first came across Weegee (Arthur Fellig) when there was an exhibition of his photography at Brown University’s David Winton Bell Gallery. Although I couldn’t articulate why at the time, I distinctly recall the feeling of: Finally! Art and photography that for some reason…