Vivian Maier was an amateur street photographer born in New York in 1926. She grew up in France and in 1951 she came back to New York where she lived for a while and then eventually spent most of her life in Chicago.
Maier worked as a nanny with multiple families in both cities for over forty years.The families and the kids whom she cared for remembered her as very private, shy who spent her days off walking the streets taking pictures. Her personality reminds me a little bit of Helen Levitt. She shot mostly in black and white using a Rolleiflex camera but she also shot in color later in her life.
She became really poor and was saved by the families she worked for when they bought her a house and paid some of her bills. Eventually she couldn’t afford paying those bills and some of her possessions were sold at an auction including a storage locker containing over 30,000 prints and negatives.
The most exciting part of Vivian Maier’s is that her work was only discovered in 2009,two years after her death, when John Maloof, president of the Jefferson Park Historical Society in Chicago bought the storage locker containing the images while working on a book about the Chicago neighborhood of Portage Park.
Her images were destined to remained in obscurity and we would have never seen such wonderful depiction of life in the streets during the 1950’s and 1960’s if it wasn’t for the fortuitous discovery of her images in the auctioned locker.
Her images impacted the world of street photography and are part of the new revival of this genre of photography.