Vivian Maier, an insightful american photographer from the mid-20th century, became last year famous when her work, which was not published in her lifetime, went viral in the Internet.
Maier’s massive body of work is composed of 100,000 to 150,000 negatives, over 3,000 prints, hundreds of rolls of film own nowadays by the Maloof Collection. Named after the young historian who discovered by chance 30.000 negatives at a local thrift auction house in Chicago in 2007, the collection brought Maier’s work to light only 1 years before the artist died. Her photographs, mostly streets scenes and portraits from the 50s until the 90s, remaind unknown till the day the local historian found them after her storage locker’s content had been auctioned off for non-payment.
Her work presents all facets of city life in America’s post-war golden age. Predominantly depicting Chicago and New York streets and its unhabitants in the 50s and 60s, they show workers, children, notable or else margins and high society-ladies surprised or posing for the camera. Nothing suggests that Maier ever studied photography formally: as a professional nanny (whose pictures show uncommon affinity with children), she wandered the streets with a Rolleiflex twin-lens reflex camera and apparently kept those precious records of urban America for herself.
Today, waiting for a late academic validation, Vivian Maier’s work is already considered as ranking among the top street photographs of the mid-20th century. Compared to Diane Arbus, Walker Evans or Weegee, it has been lately presented in many blogs since 2010 (Mr Maloof started himself with a question on an internet platform, asking what he should do with those negatives). Latelly, her story has been told in planty of renowned medias, like the Time, the Guardian, or else the New York Times Style Magazine. Museums’ curators may wait a bit more to express as much interess as the press and the blogosphere did. As far as the Maloof Collection writes about her work, it has been only exhibited in galleries. But it might be only a matter of time, perhaps after her oeuvre will be fully archived and cataloged, untill institutions start presenting her photographs on their own walls.
Untill January the 28th, her work is shown both in New York and in Los Angeles: “Vivian Maier – Street Photographer” in the Howard Greenberg Gallery and “Vivian Maier – Hosted by Tim Roth” at the Merry Karnowsky Gallery.
Here some of her street photographs:
Vivian Maier (1926-2009) was born in New York. After having lived in France, she came back at 25 to NYC in the early 50s. She then moved to Chicago, IL, in 1956, where she died years later at 83.
Photo credits: The Maloof Collection, courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, powerHouse Books — All Rights Reserved