Finding Vivian Maier

The story of this nanny who has now wowed the world with her pho­tog­ra­phy, and who inci­den­tally recorded some of the most inter­est­ing mar­vels and pecu­liar­i­ties of Urban Amer­ica in the sec­ond half of the twen­ti­eth cen­tury is seem­ingly beyond belief.

An Amer­i­can of French and Austro-Hungarian extrac­tion, Vivian bounced between Europe and the United States before com­ing back to New York City in 1951.

Hav­ing picked up pho­tog­ra­phy just two years ear­lier, she would comb the streets of the Big Apple refin­ing her artis­tic craft. By 1956 Vivian left the East Coast for Chicago, where she’d spend most of the rest of her life work­ing as a caregiver.

In her leisure Vivian would shoot pho­tos that she zeal­ously hid from the eyes of oth­ers. Tak­ing snap­shots into the late 1990′s, Maier would leave behind a body of work com­pris­ing over 100,000 negatives.

Addi­tion­ally Vivian’s pas­sion for doc­u­ment­ing extended to a series of home­made doc­u­men­tary films and audio recordings.

Inter­est­ing bits of Amer­i­cana, the demo­li­tion of his­toric land­marks for new devel­op­ment, the unseen lives of eth­nics and the des­ti­tute, as well as some of Chicago’s most cher­ished sites were all metic­u­lously cat­a­logued by Vivian Maier.

A free spirit but also a proud soul, Vivian became poor and was ulti­mately saved by three of the chil­dren she had nan­nied ear­lier in her life.

Fondly remem­ber­ing Maier as a sec­ond mother, they pooled together to pay for an apart­ment and took the best of care for her.

Unbe­knownst to them, one of Vivian’s stor­age lock­ers was auc­tioned off due to delin­quent pay­ments. In those stor­age lock­ers lay the mas­sive hoard of neg­a­tives Maier secretly stashed through­out her lifetime.

Maier’s mas­sive body of work would come to light when in 2007 her work was dis­cov­ered at a local thrift auc­tion house on Chicago’s North­west Side.

From there, it would even­tu­ally impact the world over and change the life of the man who cham­pi­oned her work and brought it to the pub­lic eye, John Mal­oof. Cur­rently, Vivian Maier’s body of work is being archived and cat­a­loged for the enjoy­ment of oth­ers and for future generations.

John Mal­oof is at the core of this project after recon­struct­ing most of the archive, hav­ing been pre­vi­ously dis­persed to the var­i­ous buy­ers attend­ing that auction.

Now, with roughly 90% of her archive recon­structed, Vivian’s work is part of a renais­sance in inter­est in the art of Street Photography.


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