Vivian Maier

Vivian Maier exhibit 1

Like many people, I first heard about photographer Vivian Maier around 2010. This is when photographer John Maloof started posting her pictures online and they – and her story – began to go viral. Some six years, five books, two documentaries, countless news stories and dozens of exhibitions later, her work and her story are no less fascinating.

Maier was a photographer who shot literally tens of thousands of pictures over the course of about 50 years, but whose work was entirely unknown until after her death in 2009. Now referred to primarily as a street photographer, from the 1950s through the 1990s her subjects included landscapes, street scenes, as well as portraits and candid (likely even surreptitious) photos of both people she knew and strangers on the street. She also made audio recordings and shot 8mm film.

Vivian Maier exhibit 2

She worked as a nanny, and was a very private person who does not seem to have been well known even by those who did know her. Virtually nobody saw any of her photographs during her lifetime. Towards the end of her life, she had shot an astounding number of photographs and accumulated a huge quantity of prints, negatives, and undeveloped film canisters. She rented space where she stored boxes and suitcases filled with her work, but at some point became unable to pay the rental fees, and the boxes and suitcases containing her work were sold at auction.

John Maloof, Jeffrey Goldstein and others have brought her work to the public eye, and other researchers have tried to learn more about her life and her history. For now, what is best known is a significant sample of her remarkable body of work. Unfortunately, I was unable to get permission to include any of her images here, but for those who are interested, I encourage you to click here and here to see some of her work. It really is quite remarkable. You can also get information on the documentaries that were made about her here and here.


(Photos top and middle by Thomas Leuthard via Flickr, taken at the exhibit Vivian Maier – A Life Uncovered)

(Under the heading of ‘Better Late Than Never,’ I am also going to include a pingback to last week’s WP Discover Challenge, Analog, because Vivian Maier was most definitely of the analog world. Can you imagine what she might have done with a digital camera in her hands?)

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