Vivian Maier was 83 years old when she died in 2009. However, she was not able to see her work as a photographer. This nanny who loved photography had accumulated a stock of more than 100.000 negatives and countless rolls of undeveloped film throughout her life which showed the American way of life over more than 4 decades. Without a doubt, a pioneer in street photography that never had the recognition that she deserved.
Vivian Maier, unknown photographer
Born in New York in 1926, the daughter of Jewish refugees, she spent her youth in France with her mother. Vivian finally moved to the States in 1952. She worked as a nanny for over 4 decades for different families; first in New York City and later in Chicago. The children she took care of remembered Vivian as a quiet woman, very private with her life, that spent her time walking up and down the streets and taking pictures, most of the time with a Rolleiflex camera.
She was a Socialist, a Feminist, a movie critic, and a tell-it-like-it-is type of person; learned English by going to theaters, which she loved… She was constantly taking pictures she didn’t show to anyone
The photo stock hidden in a storage room
No one was able to see Vivian’s work until 2007 when John Maloof got hold of part of this photographic archive at an auction. In that time Maloof was working on a book of historical photos of Chicago neighborhoods. Drawn by the images and the content of the photos, he started looking for information about the name written by some of the pictures: Who was Vivian Maier?
Fascinated by this woman, a pioneer in the world of street photography, Maloof kept investigating through a blog in a story that soon became a viral phenomenon worldwide. Unfortunately, Maloof could not arrive in time to contact the author of the images. Vivian died in 2009 after not being able to fully recover of an accident in which she hit her head after slipping on an icy road.
Street photography global phenomenon
Nowadays Vivian’s work quality is unquestionable, and exhibitions about her work have taken place around half the world. Maier had a unique look that gave value to everyday banal situations, where the urban landscapes of New York or Chicago alternated with the daily life of a nanny. Exhibitions about his work have been a success; even a documentary that collects her history has been shot.
From Kilfi we also want to echo the story of this unique photographer. And we ask ourselves another question: How many treasures can be found still hidden in storage rooms and basements? How many photographers are still hidden, their talent being unrecognized? As lovers of photography we can not allow it! So, if you have a talent like Vivian Maier‘s you must exploit it every day. Do not stop photographing and recording your reality and showing it to the world.