Vivian Maier: Coming Out of the Shadows
Mary Poppins with a Camera
Recently I had the pleasure of viewing one of the most
fascinating and enjoyable films in recent memory.
John Maloof developed the film about the life and work
of Vivian Maier. Maier remains the most mysterious street
and documentary photographers of the 20th Century and
was completely unknown until the time of her death at
83 years old in 2009.
Her work was first discovered in Chicago in 2007
wherein 3000+ prints, over 100,000 negatives,
and hundreds of undeveloped film were stored in
boxes hidden within several abandoned storage units
and ended up on the auction floor in separate lots only
to be rescued by John Maloof. Born in New York, Maier
spent much of her youth in France. Starting in the late
1940s, she shot an average of a roll of film a day.
She moved to Chicago in the mid-1950s, and spent the
next 40 years working as a nanny to support her unrelenting
passion for photography. There are so many wonderful
photographs in her collection and these are not even a
tiny fraction of her work.
In addition to her known street photography,
she had a prolific, relentless curiosity that worked
in a vast range of subjects and styles.
Maier’s photos reveal a unique ability to brilliantly
capture not only emotions but the issues of the
moment as depicted in protest scenes shot during
the social unrest of 1968. Her collection reflects
nine of Maier’s personal journeys from the pastures
of rural France to the streets of downtown Chicago,
Snapshots, America, Day, Maxwell, Beach, 1968,
Downtown, Walks, and Night.
Vivian’s photographs are a personal diary telling
her life story, capturing the essence and vibrancy
of her surroundings on a daily basis. She seemed to
stare deep into the soul of the 50s and 60s preserving
the everyday experience of the people she encountered.
The joy, heartbreak reality and curiosity she recorded
is what makes her work so compelling. Venturing outside
the comfortable homes and picturesque neighborhoods
of her employers, Maier shot many of her most iconic
photos while working for various Chicago families,
a job that allowed her the flexibility to travel both
domestically and abroad, as shown in her photographs
of New York, South Dakota, Florida, California, as well as
the rural pastures of Southern France.
As clear and forthright as her images are, they only
go so far in revealing who she was and why she never
shared any of her work…but don’t fret if you are a
film enthusiast. A fascinating new documentary,
Finding Vivian Maier, is currently out in theaters
and is not to be missed. There is so much mystery
and work to admire and discover about this
gifted human being.