Vivian Maier

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Vivian Maier
Vivian Maier.jpg
Self Portrait, New York City, c. 1950s
Birth nameVivian Dorothea Maier
Born(1926-02-01)February 1, 1926
New York, New York, U.S.
DiedApril 21, 2009(2009-04-21) (aged 83)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
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Vivian Maier
Vivian Maier.jpg
Self Portrait, New York City, c. 1950s
Birth nameVivian Dorothea Maier
Born(1926-02-01)February 1, 1926
New York, New York, U.S.
DiedApril 21, 2009(2009-04-21) (aged 83)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.

Vivian Dorothea Maier (February 1, 1926 – April 21, 2009) was an American street photographer, who was born in New York City and spent much of her childhood in France.[1] After returning to the United States, she worked for approximately forty years as a nanny in Chicago, Illinois. During those years, she took more than 150,000 photographs, primarily of people and architecture of New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, although she traveled and photographed worldwide.[2]

Her photographs remained unknown and mostly undeveloped until they were discovered by a local Chicago historian and collector, John Maloof, in 2007. Following Maier's death, her work began to receive critical acclaim.[3][4] Her photographs have been exhibited throughout North America, Western Europe and Asia and featured in countless articles throughout the world.[5] Her life and work have been the subject of several books and documentary films.


Maier's images predominantly depict street scenes in Chicago and New York, in the 1950s and 1960s.[6] An article in The Independent said "the well-to-do shoppers of Chicago stroll and gossip in all their department-store finery before Maier, but the most arresting subjects are those people on the margins of successful, rich America in the 1950s and 1960s: the kids, the black maids, the bums flaked out on shop stoops."[7] John Maloof has said of her work that "Elderly folk congregating in Chicago's Old Polish Downtown, garishly dressed dowagers, and the urban African-American experience were all fair game for Maier’s lens."[8]

Discovery and recognition[edit]

Maier's photographic legacy – in the form of some 100,000 negatives, many still undeveloped – was discovered by a 26-year-old real estate agent, John Maloof, also president of the Jefferson Park Historical Society in Chicago. While working on a book about the Chicago neighborhood of Portage Park,[9] Maloof bought 30,000 prints and negatives from an auction house that had acquired the photographs from a storage locker that had been sold off when Maier was no longer able to pay her fees.[4] After buying the first collection of Maier photographs in 2007, Maloof acquired more from another buyer at the same auction.[1][4][10] Maloof, who runs the Maloof Collection, owns 100,000 to 150,000 negatives, more than 3,000 vintage prints, hundreds of rolls of film, home movies, audio tape interviews, original cameras of Maier, documents, and other items, representing roughly 90 percent of Maier's work.[11] Maloof soon discovered Maier's name, but was unable to find out more about her until just after her death, when he found an obituary notice in the Chicago Tribune.[12]

Her work was first published on the Internet in July 2008 by Ron Slattery, who also had bought some of her work at the auction, with little fanfare.[13] In 2009, Maloof started to post some of Maier's photographs on a blog.[14] Maloof's promotion of Maier's photography eventually resulted in interest in her work. In the spring of 2010, Chicago art collector Jeffrey Goldstein acquired a portion of the Maier collection from one of the original buyers. Since Goldstein's original purchase, his collection has grown to include 17,500 negatives, 2,000 prints, 30 homemade movies, and numerous slides.

Since her posthumous discovery, Maier's photographs, and the way they were discovered, have received international attention in mainstream media,[3][4][7][15] and her work has featured in many gallery exhibitions and a number of books.

Personal life[edit]

Many details of Maier's life are unknown. She was born in New York City, the daughter of Maria Jaussaud and Charles Maier, French and Austrian respectively. She moved between the U.S. and France several times during her childhood, living with her mother in the Alpine village of Saint-Bonnet-en-Champsaur near to her mother's relations. Her father seems to have temporarily left the family for unknown reasons by 1930. In the census that year, the head of the household was listed as award-winning portrait photographer Jeanne Bertrand, who knew the founder of the Whitney Museum of American Art.[1] It should be noted that Maria worked as a practical nurse for a private family, giving insight into Vivian's career of working for private families.[16]

In 1935, Vivian and her mother, Maria, were living in Saint-Julien-en-Champsaur and prior to 1940 returned to New York. Her father and brother Charles stayed in New York. The family of Charles, Maria, Vivian and Charles were living in New York in 1940, where her father worked as a steam engineer.[17]

In 1951, aged 25, Maier moved from France to New York, NY, where she worked in a sweatshop. She moved to the Chicago area's North Shore in 1956 and there, for approximately 40 years, worked on and off as a nanny, staying with one family for 14 years. The families that employed her described her as very private and reported that she spent her days off walking the streets of Chicago and taking photographs, most often with a Rolleiflex camera.[18]

John Maloof, curator of some of Maier's photographs, summarizes the way the children she nannied would later describe her:[19]

She was a Socialist, a Feminist, a movie critic, and a tell-it-like-it-is type of person. She learned English by going to theaters, which she loved. ... She was constantly taking pictures, which she didn't show anyone.

In 1959 and 1960, Maier took photographs in Los Angeles, Manila, Bangkok, Beijing, Egypt, Italy, and the American Southwest. The trip was probably financed by the sale of a family farm in Saint-Julien-en-Champsaur. For a brief period in the 1970s, Maier worked as a nanny for Phil Donahue's children. She kept her belongings at her employers, at one she had 200 boxes of materials. Most were photographs or negatives, but Maier also collected newspapers,[1] and sometimes recorded audiotapes of conversations she had with people she photographed.[18]

Toward the end of her life, Maier may have been homeless for some time. She lived on Social Security and may have had another source of income. The children she had cared for in the early 1950s bought her an apartment in the Rogers Park area of Chicago and paid her bills. In 2008, she slipped on ice and hit her head. She did not fully recover and died in 2009 at the age of 83.[1][7]

Printed publications[edit]


  • Finding Vivian Maier, November/December 2010, The Apartment Gallery (Apartment 02), Oslo, Norway[20]
  • March/April 2010, Bruun's Galleri, Århus, Denmark[21]
  • Finding Vivian Maier: Chicago Street Photographer, January - April 2011, Chicago Cultural Center[1][22]
  • Twinkle, twinkle, little star..., January - April 2011, Galerie Hilaneh von Kories, Hamburg, Germany[23]
  • Vivian Maier, Photographer, April - June 2011, Russell Bowman Art Advisory, Chicago, Illinois, USA[24]
  • Vivian Maier - A Life Uncovered, July 2011, the London Street Photography Festival, London[25]
  • Vivian Maier, Photographer, July 2011 - January 2012, Hearst Gallery, New York[26]
  • Vivian Maier - A Life Uncovered, July - September 2011, Photofusion Gallery, London[21]
  • Vivian Maier, Photographer, September - November 2011, Stephen Cohen Gallery, Los Angeles[21]
  • December 2011 - February 2012, Steven Kasher Gallery, New York, New York[21]
  • December 2011 - January 2012, Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York[21]
  • Vivian Maier - Hosted by Tim Roth, December 2011 - January 2012, Merry Karnowsky Gallery, Los Angeles[21][27]
  • Vivian Maier - Photographs January - April 2012, Jackson Fine Art, Atlanta[28]
  • Vivian Maier's Chicago, 2012 - 2014, Chicago History Museum, Chicago, Illinois.
  • A la recherche de Vivian Maier (In search of Vivian Maier), June/July 2011, Saint-Julien-en-Champsaur
  • A la recherche de Vivian Maier (In search of Vivian Maier), July/August 2011, the Gap Library, Gap, Hautes-Alpes, France.[29]
  • Lo sguardo nascosto (The Hidden Glance), October - November 2012, Brescia, Italy.[30]
  • Vivian Maier, April - June 2013, Antwerp, Belgium, Gallery51[31]
  • Vivian Maier: Out of the Shadows, April 4 - June 16, 2013, Tampa, Fl, USA; Florida Museum of Photographic Arts[32]
  • Summer in the City, June 21 - August 17, 2013, Chicago, IL, USA; Russell Bowman Art Advisory[33]
  • Vivian Maier, June 22 - August 11, 2013, Shanghai, China; Kunst.Licht Photo Art Gallery[34]
  • Vivian Maier: Out of the Shadows, July 27 - September 14, 2013, Toronto, ON; Stephen Bulger Gallery[35]
  • Vivian Maier: Out of the Shadows - The Unknown Nanny Photographer, August 23 - October 3, 2013, Durango, Colorado, USA; Open Shutter Gallery[36]
  • Vivian Maier: Picturing Chicago, October, 2013, Chicago, IL, USA; Union League Club[37]
  • Vivian Maier, November 2013 - June 2014, Tours, France; Jeu de Paume [38]
  • Vivian Maier - November 6 - December 21, 2013, Paris, France; Galerie Frederic Moisan[39]
  • Vivian Maier: Out of the Shadows - January - February, 2014, Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Cleveland Print Room[40]
  • Certificates of Presence: Vivian Maier, Livija Patikne, J. Lindemann - January 17 - March 8, 2014, Milwaukee, WI, USA; Portrait Society Gallery[41]
  • Vivian Maier: Out of the Shadows - January 24 - March 1, 2014, Minneapolis, MN, USA; MPLS Photo Center[42]
  • Vivian Maier: Out of the Shadows - February - June 2014, San Francisco, California, USA; Scott Nichols Gallery[43]
  • See All About It: Vivian Maier's Newspaper Portraits - March 3 - May 1, 2014, Berkeley, CA, USA; The Reva and David Logan Gallery at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism[44]
  • Vivian Maier, Photographer - March 29 - May 10, 2014, Fribourg, Switzerland; Cantonal and University Library[45]
  • Vivian Maier: Out of The Shadows - March 29 - September 28, 2014, Chicago, IL, USA; Harold Washington Library[46]
  • Vivian Maier - A Photographic Journey - May 8 - July 12, 2014, Highland Park, IL, USA; The Art Center Highland Park[47]
  • Vivian Maier, Amatorka - May 9 - June 23rd 2014, Warsaw, Poland; Leica Gallery[48]
  • Permanent gallery of Maier’s work, opened 2014, Mpls Photo Center, Minneapolis, MN.[49]

Documentary films about Maier[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f O'Donnell, Nora (December 14, 2010). "The Life and Work of Street Photographer Vivian Maier", Chicago Magazine. Retrieved on January 4, 2011.
  2. ^ “Vivian Maier: A Life Discovered” hosted by Tim Roth at the Merry Karnowsky Gallery in Los Angeles.
  3. ^ a b Beck, Katie (January 21, 2011). "Vivian Maier: A life's lost work seen for first time". BBC. Retrieved January 21, 2011. 
  4. ^ a b c d "Vivian Maier", Chicago Tonight, broadcast by WTTW, December 22, 2010. Retrieved on January 4, 2011
  5. ^ "Exhibitions | Vivian Maier". 2013-09-14. Retrieved 2014-05-26. 
  6. ^ Kotlowitz, Alex (May–June 2011). "The Best Street Photographer You've Never Heard Of". Mother Jones. Retrieved November 11, 2011. 
  7. ^ a b c "Little Miss Big Shot", The Independent (November 1, 2009). Retrieved on January 4, 2011.
  8. ^ p.5
  9. ^ Newsletter January 2009 - Number IX, Jefferson Park Historical Society. p. 2. "...we celebrated the publishing of a new book, 'Portage Park', authored by JPHS executive board members Dan Pogorzelski and John Maloof."
  10. ^ Maloof, John (October 2009). Unfolding the Vivian Maier mystery...", in Vivian Maier - Her Discovered Work. Retrieved on November 14, 2009.
  11. ^ "Maloof Collection". [dubious ]
  12. ^ Official Obituary, The Chicago Tribune
  13. ^ Slattery, Ron. (July 2008) "Story", in Bighappyfunhouse. Retrieved on January 11, 2011.
  14. ^ Maloof, John. "Vivian Maier - Her Discovered Work" Curator's blog. Retrieved on January 4, 2011.
  15. ^ Profetico, Cecilia (October 22, 2009)."Tras una subasta, encuentran 40.000 negativos escondidos en un mueble", Clarín (Buenos Aires) in Spanish; Thorén, Line (November 9, 2009)."Hemlös fotograf slår igenom – efter sin död", Aftonbladet (Stockholm) in Swedish. Retrieved on January 4, 2011.
  16. ^ United States Federal Census 1930 Bronx, Bronx, New York; Roll: 1469; Page: 1A; Enumeration District: 0733; Image: 872.0; FHL microfilm: 2341204.
  17. ^ United States Federal Census 1940; New York, New York, New York; Roll: T627_2653; Page: 8A; Enumeration District: 31-1242.
  18. ^ a b Houlihan, Mary (January 2, 2011). A developing picture: The story of Vivian Maier , The Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved on January 4, 2011.
  19. ^ Unfolding the Vivian Maier mystery...", in Vivian Maier - her discovered work, John Maloof's blog for October 22, 2009. Retrieved on Nov. 14, 2009.
  20. ^ "Finding Vivian Maier". The Apartment Gallery. Retrieved 14 December 2012. 
  21. ^ a b c d e f "Vivian Maier Exhibitions & Events". 
  22. ^ "January 8th, 2011 - April 3rd, 2011, Chicago Cultural Center, Vivian Maier". ArtSlant. Retrieved 2014-05-26. 
  23. ^ "Vivian Maier: Twinkle, twinkle, little star...". Galerie Hilaneh von Kories. 
  24. ^ "Review: Vivian Maier/Russell Bowman Art Advisory". 
  25. ^ "Vivian Maier: A Life Uncovered". London Street Photography Festival. 
  26. ^ "Vivian Maier Exhibitions". 
  27. ^ Roth, Tim. "Tim Roth Twitter Update". 
  28. ^ "Vivian Maier - Jackson Fine Art". 
  29. ^ "Actualités juillet 2011, Anima Gap, le blog". 
  30. ^ "Galleria dell'Incisione - Mostra Vivian Maier". 
  31. ^ "Gallery 51 - Vivian Maier". 
  32. ^ "Vivian Maier: Out of the Shadows". FMoPA. Retrieved 2014-05-26. 
  33. ^ "Vivian Maier, Photographer, Art show at Russell Bowman, 2011". Retrieved 2014-05-26. 
  34. ^ "kunst.licht Photo Art Gallery Shanghai". Retrieved 2014-05-26. 
  35. ^ "Stephen Bulger Gallery". 2013-09-14. Retrieved 2014-05-26. 
  36. ^ "Open Shutter Gallery". Open Shutter Gallery. Retrieved 2014-05-26. 
  37. ^ "Past Exhibitions - Union League Club of Chicago". 2011-09-20. Retrieved 2014-05-26. 
  38. ^ "Jeu de Paume - Vivian Maier". 
  39. ^ "Galerie_Frédéric Moisan". 2013-11-06. Retrieved 2014-05-26. 
  40. ^ "Vivian Maier exhibition at the Cleveland Print Room reveals the magic of a photographic master unknown in her lifetime". 
  41. ^ "Projects, portrait related art, social engagement". Portrait Society Gallery. Retrieved 2014-05-26. 
  42. ^ "MPLS Photo Center- Minneapolis, MN | Vivian Maier". Retrieved 2014-05-26. 
  43. ^ "Scott Nichols Gallery". 
  44. ^ Chuck Harris. "See All About It–Events–UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism". Retrieved 2014-05-26. 
  45. ^ "Bibliothèque cantonale et universitaire Fribourg". 1965-05-12. Retrieved 2014-05-26. 
  46. ^ March 25, 2014 (2014-03-25). "Harold Washington Library Center Exhibit Features Vivian Maier’s Photos of Chicago | Chicago Public Library". Retrieved 2014-05-26. 
  47. ^ "The Art Center – Highland Park: The Art Center – Highland Park". Retrieved 2014-05-26. 
  48. ^ "Vivian Maier, Amatorka | Leica Camera Polska". Retrieved 2014-05-26. 
  49. ^ "Vivian Maier Gallery". Mpls Photo Center. Retrieved 2014-05-26. 
  50. ^ "Vivian Maier: Who Took Nanny's Pictures (2013)". IMDB. Retrieved 16 January 2014. 
  51. ^ "The Vivian Maier Mystery (2013)". IMDB. Retrieved 16 January 2014. 
  52. ^ "Finding Vivian Maier (2013)". IMDB. Retrieved 16 January 2014. 

External links[edit]