Humanities, Research

Comprehensive photo gift funds premiere of Vivian Maier photos

An inaugural exhibit of Chicago street photos by a newly discovered photographer celebrates a comprehensive gift to propel photojournalism studies at the Graduate School of Journalism and across campus..


In celebration of a landmark gift to the campus by the Reva and David Logan Foundation, the University of California, Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism is exhibiting never-before-displayed photographs of Chicago’s once-thriving newspaper scene taken by Vivian Maier, a nanny and self-taught street photographer whose brilliant work was uncovered shortly before she died in 2009.

“See All About It,” the inaugural exhibit of the Reva and David Logan Gallery of Documentary Photography in North Gate Hall, showcases Maier’s obsessive but secretive photography.

The Logan Foundation gift includes a donation to the campus of the Logan Photographic Book Collection, valued at more than $700,000, $3.1 million for an endowed professorship and gallery, and funds for a range of activities to bring the photo book collections to life for scholars and the public. The funds will provide a permanent endowment to promote documentary photography and photojournalism at the journalism school and UC Berkeley’s Bancroft Library. This is the foundation’s second major gift to the campus.

Reva and David Logan wanted to ensure that documentary photography and photojournalism remain permanent, active parts of the journalism school’s program, said Jonathan Logan, one of their sons who helped assemble and maintain the rare photography book collection. He noted that a gallery kiosk will allow visitors to explore some of the collection, turning book pages virtually.

Ken Light, professor and director of the journalism school’s photojournalism program, said the gift from the Chicago-based Logan Foundation makes possible the Maier exhibit as well as a related April 2 lecture and recent renovations of the Logan Gallery.

Maier mania

Maier’s work was chosen for the inaugural exhibit, Light said, because of the Chicago connection for both her and the Logans. After visiting the Maier exhibit, Jonathan Logan called it outstanding, powerful and “a real find.”

While Maier’s work has been exhibited around the world, her elegant but gritty street photojournalism is being shown for the first time in Northern California, which appears to be in the midst of Maier mania. Maier photos are on display at a commercial San Francisco gallery, and screenings of the film, “Finding Vivian Maier” are scheduled in April in Berkeley, San Francisco and elsewhere in the region.

Each of the 25 black-and-white photos in UC Berkeley’s Maier exhibit features a newspaper – being read, rested on, perused in a park, displayed on a newsstand and rolled up in the basket of a delivery boy’s bicycle.  Maier captured the diversity of newspapers in Chicago during the mid-20th century, and they included the Wall Street Journal, Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune, as well as the Chicago Daily News and William Randolph Hearst’s Chicago American, both now defunct.

Newspapers clearly mattered to Maier, who saved news clippings and had so many stacked in one apartment where she lived that the floor had to be reinforced with a steel jack, according to posthumous accounts of her life.

But photography apparently was her first love. Maier produced more than 100,000 photographic negatives, and left behind hundreds of rolls of undeveloped film as well as photo journals documenting her artistic forays that began in the 1940s. Much of her treasure was auctioned off in 2007 after she failed to keep up with payments for keeping it in a storage locker. But the sale led to publication in 2009 of some of the images and almost instant acclaim for the 83-year-old recluse, who died a few months later.

As part of the inaugural exhibit, the Logan Foundation gift also is underwriting “Tribute to Newspapers, Photographs by Vivian Maier,” a free, public lecture at North Gate Hall from 6:15 p.m.-7:15 p.m. on April 2. Michael Williams and Richard Cahan, who curated the exhibit with images from the Jeffrey Goldstein collection, will join Goldstein to discuss Maier’s intriguing work. Williams and Cahan coauthored “Vivian Maier: Out of the Shadows” (2012), a 300-page book of photos and text that earned a glowing review in the Chicago Tribune.

Unparalleled photojournalism collection

The gift from the Logan Foundation, which supports journalism, social justice and the arts, also will fund future gallery exhibits, a book symposium, and an annual talk about selections from the Logan’s collection of nearly 3,000 photography books that now belongs to the Bancroft Library.

The addition of this staggering collection to the library’s existing resources will propel UC Berkeley to a new level, according to Bancroft photo curator Jack von Euw. He said that no other institution, including the Library of Congress and the Getty Research Center, can offer this breadth and depth of material for research into photojournalism and socially-engaged photography,

The gift of these books ensures that UC Berkeley will be a major center for the study of photography, on par with the George Eastman House in New York and the Center for Creative Photography in Arizona, he added.

The “See All About It” show runs from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the journalism school’s hallway gallery weekdays through May 1.