Just saw a FANTASTIC documentary this weekend about street photographer, Vivian Maier. Interesting thing was that her amazing talent was not discovered until after she had passed away, and may have gone completely unnoticed, if a young historian (John Maloof) hadn’t purchased her negatives at a storage auction for $380 (greater than 100,000 images). The documentary does a masterful job in taking us on the journey of how Maloof (through his own compulsive behaviors) looked to unravel the mystery of who was this prolific photographer, where she came from, why did she take so many pictures, and why did they go unnoticed for so long. It’s a captivating story of an artist who recorded history in her own unique way, for her own unique reasons, and lived a life of solitude without ever being recognized for her amazing work (which is on par with famous street photographers like Dorothea Lange, Garry Winogrand, and Henri Cartier-Bresson).
Vivian Dorothy Maier (February 1, 1926 – April 21, 2009) was an American street photographer. Maier worked for about forty years as a nanny, mostly in Chicago’s North Shore, pursuing photography during her spare time. She took more than 150,000 photographs during her career, primarily of the people and architecture of New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles, although she also traveled and photographed worldwide.
In a “small world” scenario, there is a portion near the end of the movie where they interview some of her neighbors who talked about the “old lady on the park bench”. I immediately recognized the location as the Rogers Park Beach, where I just happened to take the picture below during our recent visit to Chicago in June.
Check out the movie trailer below.