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Champy's on M.L. King Boulevard, Chattanooga, Tenn.

The good news is the house my husband and I have been renovating for the past two years has finally sold. To celebrate the day we closed, we went to lunch with his sister at a fairly new restaurant in town called Champy’s. Even though I work one block away, I had never been to this restaurant before. They serve fried chicken, and lots of it. Oh, and blues music. But the decor is what caught my eye. I went back the next day with my camera and caught this man painting part of the menu on the side of the building. I love places like this. They have a life of their own. But the main thing for me is it got me photographing again. It felt good.

Meanwhile, I have become aware of a “new to us” photographer. Her name is Vivian Maier. She was a nanny in Chicago, and in her spare time wandered the streets taking photos. She had them developed – well, most of them I think – but NEVER showed them to anyone. Ever. She placed them in a storage unit years later; and when she was unable to keep up the payments, her belongings were auctioned off….thank Heavens! The man who purchased them discovered her images and has made them public. There are over 100,000 images. One book has been published so far, but it seems many volumes will be needed to display her wonderful work.

I’m not sure she ever had any formal training in photography, but she was beyond good. I can only assume that since she never married or had a family of her own that she studied people on the street. I can picture her feeling invisible to them so she could uncover their personalities. At least that’s how I would handle it when I lived in New York. Unfortunately, she has passed away and will not see how her work has inspired and moved us.

As much as I love Diane Arbus’s photography, I’m going to say I think Vivian was better.   Well, Diane took a different approach. Vivian took street photos of strangers. It doesn’t see like she ever interacted with them. Or so the images make me think. Diane talked and interacted with her subjects – even followed them home. I think Vivian was more of an observer. All speculation on my part, of course.

Anyway, here is a link to her work. I cannot stop looking, and the images keep coming. And I love them all! http://www.vivianmaier.com/

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