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The Genius of Vivian Maier

The photography community over the past few weeks have been abuzz about a newly discovered stash of breathtaking street photographs from the '50s. If you haven't heard of her already, its my pleasure to introduce you to Vivian Maier.

Ask anyone and they will tell you that street photography is no walk in the park. Capturing candid scenes while not scaring off (or worse) your subject are but one of the factors that you have to take into account with each shot you take. And then we have Vivian Maier, who until of recent, was an enigma. She has captivated the world with her unique brand of photography which was full of unfathomable depth. And no, she wasn’t a professional photojournalist or a member of Magnum. She was a nanny.

Not much is known about Vivian Maier. But the story starts off with John Maloof, a real estate agent, chanced uponed Vivians’s treasure trove while at a furniture and antique auction. Little did he know what was in store for him inside a tiny little box and what this chance encounter would lead him to.

As Maloof pored over the Vivian’s 100,000 negatives, he realized just how talented and gifted she was. He picked up photography and was completely floored when he started comparing his shots to hers. “Throughout that time, I’d compare my work to Vivian’s and think, ‘Wow, this isn’t good for me.’ She was teaching me photography. I bought some books by street photographers such as Harry Callahan, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Lee Friedlander. I thought, she’s special – doesn’t anybody know?” At that time, googling her name only led to 1 hit – an obituary.

The burning desire to know Vivian’s past paved to way for her work and subsequently, her story, to reach the world. John, through the help of the internet and keen sleuthing on his part, was able to piece together a small glimpse of her life, which is detailed here.

Some of the info are conflicting. Some are solid leads. There are dozens of questions that are begging to be asked but sadly, we will never have the chance to ask them. So let’s just appreciate and remain spellbound by her photos and consider ourselves lucky that we’ve discovered mid-century America through her eyes.

Visit the ongoing exhibit of Vivian’s work:

Finding Vivian Maier: Chicago Street Photographer
Dates:
Jan 8, 2011 – Apr 3, 2011
Location:
Chicago Cultural Center
78 E. Washington St, Michigan Avenue Galleries
Chicago, IL 60602

written by cruzron

20 comments

  1. copefan

    copefan

    I've already donated to the project and I hope many more people from the lomo community do too!

    almost 4 years ago · report as spam
  2. vicuna

    vicuna

    I read about it a few days ago and was really stunned by this discovery of this amazing photographic work!

    almost 4 years ago · report as spam
  3. cruzron

    cruzron

    cant believe how much stuff she shot. the guy has 100,000 negatives and theres still some more undeveloped!

    almost 4 years ago · report as spam
  4. superlighter

    superlighter

    fascinating. what a discovery!

    almost 4 years ago · report as spam
  5. goldie

    goldie

    My goodnes, what a story and what a talent...

    almost 4 years ago · report as spam
  6. maxe

    maxe

    thank you for giving the links to these amazing Photos to us !

    almost 4 years ago · report as spam
  7. mephisto19

    mephisto19

    saw the videos - incredible!!! and soooo many great photos! would love to see an exhibition

    almost 4 years ago · report as spam
  8. bccbarbosa

    bccbarbosa

    Wow! I saw the video the other day and couldn`t stop my tears from falling after such an amazing discovery. Beautiful story. Vivian is my hero!! A real genius!!

    almost 4 years ago · report as spam
  9. rav_bunneh

    rav_bunneh

    This makes me very sad. Not because she was an awesome photographer. I don't know why a person needs to die before people take their art seriously. Granted she my have actively not shared her work while alive. I guess I just would have enjoyed it more if she was noticed while she was still alive.

    almost 4 years ago · report as spam
  10. gvelasco

    gvelasco

    What a great eye she had. Great work. Amazing find.

    almost 4 years ago · report as spam
  11. niko_fuzzy

    niko_fuzzy

    best street photography i ever seen. :)

    almost 4 years ago · report as spam
  12. paperplanepilot

    paperplanepilot

    very inspiring

    almost 4 years ago · report as spam
  13. nicolas_noir

    nicolas_noir

    I found about her through flickr and the blog and just find the whole thing amazing - had completely forgotten her name though, so thanks for running this article if not for just reminding me of who she is!

    almost 4 years ago · report as spam
  14. dyluzo

    dyluzo

    Amazing so beautiful she should have her own museum . I used to be a Nanny in fact that's how I got to Canada I only worked as one for 31/2 years all together she must have loved children !

    almost 4 years ago · report as spam
  15. theletterbox

    theletterbox

    She shot beautiful pictures. When I first heard of her a few weeks ago I was amazed by the beauty of it all, wow!
    almost 4 years ago · report as spam
  16. antibiotyx

    antibiotyx

    such a wonderful story! she's phenomenal.

    almost 4 years ago · report as spam
  17. backforbreakfast

    backforbreakfast

    Amazing discovery, well-written article!

    Exhibition in Hamburg, Germany, @ Galerie Hilaneh von Kories, starting today!!! http://www.galeriehi(…)er/twinkle/
    Don't miss!!!

    over 3 years ago · report as spam
  18. graefin

    graefin

    Thanks for the link to the Hamburg exhibiton. Just wanted to post the same link ;) I will definitely see it!

    over 3 years ago · report as spam
  19. thomas12

    thomas12

    well,

    Vivian seems to be everywhere nowadays, even Lomography has found her :-)

    I wonder when the first "Vivian"-Lomo styled camera reaches the market , maybe a Lubitel ?

    My comment : "Same same, but different", eg. Street Photography vs. Lomography.

    thx for the link anyway.

    thomas

    over 3 years ago · report as spam
  20. mainstreet

    Wow! Fantastic story. Seems there is something new under the Sun. Her work has the feel of F. Fellini. Need some help scanning? Thanks for rescuing her work. Hope it exhibits in Texas someday.
    over 3 years ago · report as spam

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This is the original article written in: English. It is also available in: Deutsch, Italiano, 中文(繁體版) & Spanish.