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
Jan 8, 2011 – Apr 3, 2011
Chicago Cultural Center
78 E. Washington St, Michigan Avenue Galleries
Chicago, IL 60602

written by cruzron on 2011-01-10 #news #medium-format #analogue #photography #tlr #news #vivian-maier


  1. copefan
    copefan ·

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

  2. vicuna
    vicuna ·

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

  3. cruzron
    cruzron ·

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

  4. superlighter
    superlighter ·

    fascinating. what a discovery!

  5. goldie
    goldie ·

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

  6. maxe
    maxe ·

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

  7. mephisto19
    mephisto19 ·

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

  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!!

  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.

  10. gvelasco
    gvelasco ·

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

  11. niko_fuzzy
    niko_fuzzy ·

    best street photography i ever seen. :)

  12. paperplanepilot
    paperplanepilot ·

    very inspiring

  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!

  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 !

  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!

  16. antibiotyx
    antibiotyx ·

    such a wonderful story! she's phenomenal.

  17. backforbreakfast
    backforbreakfast ·

    Amazing discovery, well-written article!

    Exhibition in Hamburg, Germany, @ Galerie Hilaneh von Kories, starting today!!!
    Don't miss!!!

  18. graefin
    graefin ·

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

  19. thomas12
    thomas12 ·


    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.


  20. mainstreet
    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.

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