Academy Award-nominated documentary Finding Vivian Maier tells the story of a nanny and photographer who will go down in history as one of the most iconic photographers of the century, but who kept her hobby and fantastic images a secret from all who knew her. Her story has fascinated the general public since a huge quantity of her work was discovered some years ago, much to the surprise of her friends and family.
Maier, according to acquaintances, was an incredibly private and somewhat eccentric person who loved to explore the less glamorous areas of Chicago in order to show the children in her care the diversity to be found outside their privileged homes, and took photographs in these exact places on her days off, providing an insight into urban life in the USA in the ’50s and 60’s. Her black and white images show people from all walks of life, but particularly the less privileged members of American society, and are stunningly honest in the way they capture everyday moments.
The nanny continued to photograph well into the 1990s, showing all kinds of people and places around the USA, but the majority of her work was kept in storage and never developed during her life. In 2007, when Maier was unable to pay rent, one of her storage lockers was sold at auction to former real estate agent John Maloof, who was looking for material for a book. Maloof had no idea that the negatives that he’d purchased were so stunning, or that they would turn out to be so valuable, but set about reconstructing Maier’s archive to show her work to the world, obtaining around 90 percent of Maier’s work. When he shared his collection on Flickr, after Maier’s death, admiration for the images spread like wildfire and the world became fascinated by the secretive photographer. Vivian Maier passed away in April 2009, and has only posthumously achieved the fame she deserved in life.
We highly recommend watching the documentary, and finding out more about the mysterious Vivian Maier on her official website. Watch the trailer for the documentary at the bottom of this page, and look through some of Maier’s finest snapshots of American life below.