Historical Photographers: Vivian Maier
One of the most overlooked photographers of the more recent era is Vivian Maier. Born in New York City and raised in France, this photographer did most of her work as an adult after returning to her home country from abroad. In her forty years as a nanny in Chicago, she took over 100,000 photos of the city, its people, and the urban landscape. Her work was largely unknown — and in many cases, undeveloped — until a Chicago historian discovered her work near the end of her life. Only two short years after her death, Vivian Maier’s first photography book, Vivian Maier: Street Photographer rolled off the presses. Her work has also been exhibited around the world though posthumously and through her fans.
Her work, featuring mostly the cityscapes and people of New York and Chicago, was first discovered when some of her developed and many of her undeveloped negatives were sold at an auction after she was unable to pay the storage fees for them. John Maloof was the purchaser and he returned to that auction several times to acquire more of Maier’s work as well as her cameras and other paraphernalia. However, he was unable to trace her down until shortly after her death. His first information about the photographer whose work he had grown fond of was reading her obituary.
Two other fans, Ron Slattery and Jeffery Goldstein, own most of the rest of Maier’s work. Slattery first began featuring her work on the Internet in 2008 and Goldstein is responsible for the publication of her first book.