Tim Roth Hosts Opening of Rare Color Photos by Vivian Maier

Courtesy of Jordan Riefe

A fan of the renowned street photographer and a backer of the 2014 Oscar-nominated film about her, the actor presided at the opening of a rare look at the artist's color work.

With his hit Amazon series Tin Star in its second season, Tim Roth continues to stay busy with film and TV projects alike, including Quentin Tarantino’s anticipated Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, due next summer. "I don't know if they’re talking about that yet," the actor hedges. He’s listed in the cast of the new film, but his character isn’t named. "A whole bunch of us came through and did cameos," he explains to The Hollywood Reporter at the opening of Vivian Maier: Living Color, an exhibit of the renowned street photographer’s work at KP Projects through Jan. 26 that drew people like Jay Duplass, Suzanne Cryer of Silicon Valley and Isidora Goreshter of Shameless

Roth is a fan of the artist whose images, taken over 50 years in mostly Chicago and New York, captured the art world’s imagination in 2007 with the discovery of roughly 100,000 negatives and undeveloped rolls belonging to the anonymous nanny who always took her camera along on outings with the children. Her story is told in the Oscar-nominated 2014 documentary Finding Vivian Maier, directed by John Maloof and Charlie Siskel, and partially financed by Roth.

The son of a teacher and landscape-painter mother, Roth studied sculpture at Camberwell Art College before he dropped out and turned to acting. Although he received an Oscar nomination for 1995’s Rob Roy, he's best known to audiences for his work with Tarantino. Currently, he is in preproduction on Dali Land, directed by Mary Harron and starring Ben Kingsley and Ezra Miller as old and young versions of the great Spanish surrealist painter Salvador Dali.

"I have some of Vivian’s stuff, bits and pieces, but not too much," Roth says of Maier, whose work in the show is priced beginning at $2,500. "I like Vivian’s work very, very much." His tastes run toward artists like sculptor Alberto Giacometti, Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, Euan Uglow and Edouard Vuillard. "I was in Budapest recently and I went to see the Frida Kahlo exhibition, which was wonderful," he adds.

The new show features a selection of "Lifetime prints," printed by the artist, as well as new chromogenic color prints, uncommon in a body of work that is predominantly black and white. The exhibit coincides with the release of her first color monograph, The Color Work, as well as a similar show at the Howard Greenberg Gallery in New York through Jan. 5.

Born in the Bronx and raised in Europe and the U.S., Maier settled in New York in the early 1950s, then moved to Chicago five years later where she feverishly photographed the streets and people around her in anonymity, developing her photos in her bathroom-converted darkroom. Numerous self-portraits catch her reflection in glass or mirrored surfaces — a tall stooped figure peering down into the finder on her Rolleiflex camera held at her waist.

Her body of work has made her an essential voice in street photography and, judging by fan reaction worldwide, one of the most beloved chroniclers of the era, capturing its poetry, grit and pathos in her black-and-white images. The switch to color occurred in the 1970s, when Maier traded her Rolleiflex for a 35mm camera, departing from her usual square format and introducing muted hues that stand in stark contrast to the saturated tones often associated with the era.

By all evidence, she stopped producing photos around 1994 and focused her limited means on storage (she hoarded her belongings), including negatives, prints and undeveloped rolls of film. In 2007, the items were auctioned off for non-payment to Chicago resident John Maloof. In the months that followed, Maier, who was mired in poverty and intermittent homelessness, slipped on a patch of ice in downtown Chicago and hit her head. She died at the age of 83 on April 21, 2009.

While she occasionally gifted photos to people she knew, she never presented herself as a photographer, nor looked for a gallery in which to show her work. Instead, she took the rights to her photos to her grave with her, implying she may not have wanted them shown at all. But Maloof came to an agreement with the estate in 2016.

"I think she would have been amused," says Roth with a shrug and a grin, glancing around the gallery. "She was somebody who would turn up on paparazzi lines at movie openings and stuff, and I think she would have thought an opening like this with the red carpet — I think she might have liked it, really. I don’t know if she could have imagined it taking off quite this way. I don't think anyone can."