Vivian Maier evokes thoughts of Arbus, Weegee as well as other New York City and American city street photographers who flourished and published their photos in their lifetime. Maier might be better known as the “nanny with a camera”, who died just a few years after her massive (100,000 negatives) body of work was discovered in a storage locker.

Late in life, nearly destitute, three children whom she nannied pooled resources to provide her with an apartment and care. They described her as:

…a Socialist, a Feminist, a movie critic, and a tell-it-like-it-is type of person. She learned English by going to theaters, which she loved. She wore a men’s jacket, men’s shoes and a large hat most of the time. She was constantly taking pictures, which she didn’t show anyone…

But that only contributes more to the enigma that is Vivian Maier. Her birthplace and early years have yet to be sorted. Some say she was born in France. Others say she was born in the U.S. - or Austria (the part that is now Hungary). The only thing that seems to be agreed upon is that Maier, born in 1926, traveled between the U.S. and Europe in her early years, and began working as a nanny in New York City around 1951. In 1956 she permanently moved to Chicago, where she continued taking photos throughout the 1990s. She died in 2009.

Read more about the fascinating story of Maier and her photos, and as her story continues to unfold, read about John Maloof, the unlikely street photographer, who unknowingly purchased a first batch of Maier photos and is now her biggest champion.

Photos shown here: A Maier self-portrait (left) coupled with her photo of a glamorous woman out for a night on the town (right).

Notes

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