Biography: City Life/Street photographer Vivian Maier

Biography: City Life/Street photographer Vivian Maier


Vivian Maier (February 1, 1926 – April 21, 2009) was an American amateur street photographer, who was born in New York City, but grew up in France.

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 100,000 photographs, primarily of people and cityscapes in Chicago, although she traveled and photographed worldwide. Additionally Vivian’s passion for documenting extended to a series of homemade documentary films and audio recordings. Interesting bits of Americana, the demolition of historic landmarks for new development, the unseen lives of ethnics and the destitute, as well as some of Chicago’s most cherished sites were all meticulously catalogued by Vivian Maier. A free spirit but also a proud soul, Vivian became poor and was ultimately saved by three of the children she had nannied earlier in her life. Fondly remembering Maier as a second mother, they pooled together to pay for an apartment and took the best of care for her.

Unbeknownst to them, one of Vivian’s storage lockers was auctioned off due to delinquent payments. In those storage lockers lay the massive hoard of negatives Maier secretly stashed throughout her lifetime. Maier’s massive body of work would come to light when in 2007 her work was discovered at a local thrift auction house on Chicago’s Northwest Side. From there, it would eventually impact the world over and change the life of the man who championed her work and brought it to the public eye, John Maloof.

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