Vivian Maier

I don’t remember how I learned of Vivian Maier, but somehow at the end of last year, her work found her way to my computer screen and I’ve been smitten ever since.  Not only did I find her photographs captivating, but the story of her rise to fame is wonderful.  She was also a nanny, just like me, and I suppose that attracted me to her as well.  Sadly, she never lived to see her work adored by so many, or maybe it’s better this way as she has been described as a fiercely private woman.  Here is a selection of my favorites, but her website has so much more and they are all beautiful.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.  Quotes and photos via with supplemental photos via the John Maloof collection/blog and the Jeffrey Goldstein collection.

Self Portrait

“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.”

This is my favorite.  It’s like she’s trying to hide this moment of self inflicting pain.  I imagine that she’d rather break her pinky than be there.  It makes me think of this great quote that Glenn Close’s character says in Dangerous Liasons….  
“When I came out into society I was 15. I already knew that the role I was condemned to, namely to keep quiet and do what I was told, gave me the perfect opportunity to listen and observe. Not to what people told me, which naturally was of no interest, but to whatever it was they were trying to hide. I practiced detachment. I learned how to look cheerful while under the table I stuck a fork into the back of my hand.”
“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.”
A lot of her shots are of a voyeuristic nature.  I like the idea that this moment was captured and that they might never know.

…and a sense of humor

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.”

Capturing the glamorous life…

…and the not so glamorous life.

Catching people at their smirkiest…

…and focusing on a person’s idiosyncrasies. 

The happy…

…and the sad…

…or the sleepy…


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