She may be one of America's most extraordinary 20th Century street photographers, and it's likely you've never heard of her. I didn't, until a few days ago, when I watched the video below.
A World War II refugee from France, Vivian Maier, 1926 - 2009, lived and worked most of her life in Chicago; she was a nanny to the children of well-off North Shore residents. Her photographic work, discovered at a Chicago estate auction, encompasses more than 100,000 negatives, more than 3,000 prints (including some compelling self-portraits), and many rolls of undeveloped film. Former real estate agent John Maloof owns much of the work and with colleague Anthony Rydzon has been scanning and archiving it.
(See Resources, below, for Maloof's site, where he describes in the sidebar how he came to acquire his cache, including some of Maier's personal effects, and also showcases images of Maier's exceptional black-and-white and color photographs. Maier's eye for detail, framing and distilling a shot, and capturing the deeply human qualities of her subjects are all in evidence. Maloof notes that a book is in the works and that a feature-length documentary with the indie company Moretensen Film is in production.)
The first American show of Maier's work, approximately 80 posthumous prints from the 1950s through 1970s, "Finding Vivian Maier: Chicago Street Photographer", opened last week at the Chicago Cultural Center and runs through April 3. Curator Lanny Silverman calls Maier's work "incredible stuff".
My thanks to PBS NewsHourArt Beat, where I first learned of the availability of this video. (The video is just over 9-1/2 minutes long.)
Vivian Maier - Her Discovered Work (Collection of John Maloof) See, in particular, the post "Unfolding the Vivian Maier Mystery...".
Vivian Maier Photography and Vivian Maier Photography Blog
Vivian Maier Kickstarter Project (to raise funds for the prospective documentary)
Flickr Photostream of Vivian Maier Photography
Slideshow of Maier Photographs (Text in Spanish) at Revista de Cultura
Lee Bey, "Vivian Maier: the Chicago Nanny Who Was the Best Street Photographer You've Never Heard Of", Lee Bey's Chicago (WBEZ 91.5), August 10, 2010
Michelle Hauser, "Finding Vivian Maier", Observatory (The New Design Observer), March 31, 2010 (A slideshow accompanies the article.)
Mary Houlihan, "A Developing Picture: The Story of Vivian Maier", Chicago Sun-Times, January 2, 2011
"Little Miss Big Shot: Fifties America Exposed — By a French Nanny", The Independent, November 1, 2009
Nora O'Donnell, "The Life and Work of Street Photographer Vivian Maier", Chicago Magazine, January 2011
Annie Wu, "Could Vivian Maier, an Unknown Photographer, Be a Master?" (Video), The Epoch Times, January 5, 2011