”A riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.” (http://www.vivianmaier.com/)
Vivian Maier (February 1, 1926 – April 21, 2009) was an American street photographer born in New York City. Maier spent most of her youth in France, but returned to the U.S. in 1951 where she took up work as a nanny. In her leisure however, Maier photographed ordinary street scenes over the course of five decades, and left over 100,000 negatives, most of them shot in Chicago and New York City. She must have had a passionate devotion to documenting the world around her, resulting in one of the most valuable windows into American life in the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s.
In 2007, two years before she died, Vivian Maier failed to keep up payments on storage space she had rented on Chicago’s North Side. As a result, her negatives, prints, audio recordings, and 8 mm film were auctioned. Three photo collectors bought parts of her work: John Maloof, Ron Slattery and Randy Prow.
Maloof had bought the largest part of Maier’s work, about 30,000 negatives, because he was working on a book about the history of the Chicago neighborhood. Maloof later bought more of Maier’s photographic work, but was unable to discover anything about the person behind the photos – until he found Maier’s death notice in the Chicago Tribune in April 2009. In October 2009, Maloof linked his blog to a selection of Maier’s photographs on Flickr, and the results were thousands of interested people.
From there, her name and fame flew all over the world. And today – until May 22 there is an exhibition at Dunkers in Helsingborg.
She worked for 40 years as a nanny, mostly in Chicago, but traveled around the world, photographing the ordinary man in the street. Mostly black and white photos, but in the end also colour.
Occationally also uptown people…
A large part of her work consists of ”selfies” – maybe she was one of the first real selfie -obsessed photographers? There is even a book on her containing only self – portraits.
Vivian Maier: Self-Portraits. Brooklyn, NY: powerHouse, 2013. ISBN 978-1-57687-662-6. Edited by John Maloof.
Most of her photos were taken with a Rolleiflex camera of high quality, but she also (among others) used a Leica.
The Rolleiflex can bee seen in many of her selfies.
This particular selfie, is my favourite one of Vivian Maier. I think it shows her dark and light sides, literally, as well as her enigmatic approach.
To focus, she had to look down in the camera from above, and that is also the reason to why many photos show people slightly from below.
In many photos she let her shadow or the shadow of her hat be the ”selfie”.
In the movie Finding Vivian Maier (2013), directed by John Maloof and Charlie Siskel, we only get to know a tiny bit more about her – we never get to know the woman herself. Maloof has done some thorough research indeed, and I do believe that these few, very interesting, facts are all we will ever know about her. The film had its world premiere at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival on 9 September 2013, and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature at the 87th Academy Awards.
- Vivian Maier: Street Photographer. Brooklyn, NY: powerHouse, 2011. ISBN 978-1-57687-577-3. Edited by John Maloof. With an introduction by Maloof and a foreword by Geoff Dyer.
- Vivian Maier: Out of the Shadows. Chicago, IL: CityFiles, 2012. ISBN 978-0978545093. Edited by Richard Cahan and Michael Williams.
- Eye to Eye: Photographs by Vivian Maier. Chicago, IL: CityFiles, 2014. ISBN 9780991541805. Edited and with text by Richard Cahan and Michael Williams.
- Vivian Maier: A Photographer Found. London: Harper Design, 2014. ISBN 9780062305534. Edited by John Maloof with text by Marvin Heiferman and Howard Greenberg.