Finding Vivian Maier

This looks such a brilliant docu-film, and so well timed with the theme of our workshop event (and this project in general!)

I have to confess, I knew nothing of Vivian Maier (a friend sent me the link to the film trailer). A Chicago/ New York street photographer, it seems ‘fame’ and success alluded Ms Maier in her life time, but upon the discovery of her massive body of work in 2007  at a local thrift auction house on Chicago’s Northwest Side, Maier’s work has been the source of a wonderfully exciting research project, with the archive being reconstructed and catalogued by John Maloof.

The beautifully constructed website offers an intriguing narrative:

“There is still very little known about the life of Vivian Maier. What is known is that she was born in New York in 1926 and worked as a nanny for a family on Chicago’s North Shore during the 50s and 60s. Seemingly without a family of her own, the children she cared for eventually acted as caregivers for Maier herself in the autumn of her life. She took hundreds of thousands of photographs in her lifetime, but never shared them with anyone. Maier lost possession of her art when her storage locker was sold off for non-payment. She passed away in 2009 at the age of 83.”

I find this element of the ‘private’ photographic archive fascinating; we assume that street photographers wish to share their vision of the urban world in which they roam and loiter; that to photograph is to communicate a perspective, yet Maier kept these images hidden away. And that Maier was a female photographer, with all the history and theory surrounding the female gaze, her collection opens up yet another wonderfully interesting strand of research for those wishing to engage with photographic archives.

Thank goodness that the individual(s) who discovered Maier’s collection didn’t categorise it with the recent ‘trash’.

I can’t wait to see the film.


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