Vivian Maier, born in New York in 1926, grew up in France and upon returning to the United States, worked as a nanny for forty years. From the 1950s until the 1990s she took over 100,000 photographs, primarily of people and cityscapes in Chicago and New York, though she traveled and photographed worldwide. Maier’s body of work is a study on the interaction of the individual and the city.
Her eye for detail, light and composition, her humanitarian outlook, her impeccable timing and tireless ability to constantly shoot, are astounding not just for the beauty of her photographs but for the fact that Vivian Maier had no formal training whatsoever.
What makes Maier unique is that her pictures were made for no one. Not one of her photographs was printed during her lifetime. Vivian Maier was a pure witness, recording but never playing back. Her pictures had no intention but to satiate her curiosity and document the humorous, moving, beautiful, and raw images of all facets of city life in America’s post-war golden age.
There is still very little known about Vivian Maier. It wasn’t until local Chicago historian and collector John Maloof purchased a box of Maier’s negatives in 2007 that any of it saw the light of day. Since then her work has received wide critical acclaim and has been exhibited across the world. The children who Maier nannied 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, but she never showed them to anyone.’
Vivian Maier passed away in 2009 at the age of 83.