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Photo by Vivian Maier

The story and the work of photographer Vivian Maier. Extraordinary!

I was recently given the photography book “Vivian Maier: Street Photographer” as a gift, and it took my breath away. Not since Robert Frank’s “The Americans” have I been so excited about owning a book of images.

A lot has been written about Maier (NY Times, Mother Jones MagazineLA Times)…and for good reason, her story is truly amazing, and inspiring.  In short, Maier lived a dual life, one as a nanny, and the other as a street photographer.  By one estimate, she shot over 100,000 images in 40 years, starting in the 1940’s.  And no one knew.  She never showed her images!  Not even to those she worked for, who severed as family to the unmarried Maier.

In 2007, a Chicago realtor bought a storage locker brimming with rolls of undeveloped film for $400.  All he knew at the time was that the locker was repossessed for delinquent payments, and belonged to an elderly woman.  What he found on those many rolls of exposed film was a master visual storyteller.  Sadly, it wasn’t until two years later that he discovered that the owner was Maier, who had died a few days earlier.  Strangely, maybe it’s better that way.  Like most great art, the viewing experience is personal and needs no interpretation beyond our own.

Vivian Maier, Self Portrait

What excites me most about Maier, aside from her amazing and telling images, is that it appears she was in love with the process.  For me, the reward of photography comes the moment an image is made, the visual and intellectual process, not necessarily who sees it or how it is used.  By all accounts, Maier was insecure about her work (aren’t we all), which may be why she never shared it.  We’ll never truly know, but maybe she was motivated by something more personal…the simple (and engrossing) act of taking an interpretive image.  Long live the Vivian Maier in all of us.


To see what I’m talking about go to:

  1. 01.20.2012 12:47 pm

    Oh I love her photographs. I’m seriously going to buy the book next month.

    • 01.20.2012 1:04 pm

      Good choice. The book is special. Seeing her images on the printed page is a much better experience than over the web. A local gallery is showing her work starting next week. I’m excited.

  2. 01.20.2012 1:16 pm

    awesome self portrait.
    truly good photography from vivian

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