Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Wednesday Wonder: Vivian Maier

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".

Watch the full episode. See more Chicago Tonight.

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

YouTube Channel

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

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


S. Etole said...

What a treasure.

Louise Gallagher said...

this is amazing. I'm linking back to you!

Joyce Wycoff said...

There is a way for all of us to get involved with this great story ... they are raising funds through Kickstarter to make a film. ... search on Vivian Maier to find the project.

Diane Walker said...

Oh, my God! This is AMAZING!!! Thank you so much for sharing; for doing such an amazing job of staying on top of the world of art...

Diane Walker said...

PS: I also grew up on Chicago's North Shore; my boyfriend lived in Wilmette. I might have seen her, or known her! Darnit; wish I had... Her work is absolutely breathtaking.

Bradley J Moore said...

Isn't it interesting how some artists work in such oscurity for their productive lives, and then are "discovered" at some point posthumously. Why was she not recognized while alive? I suppose the answer can be found in the many resource links you have provided!

Maureen said...

Yes, Joyce. I highlight that Kickstarter project in the Resources.

Pleased this is so well-received by everyone. Thank you for stopping in. I'm looking forward to the film getting made.

Billy Coffey said...

That video was Fantastic stuff, Maureen.

Anonymous said...

she was the hidden observer.

A. Jay Adler said...

The greatness of these images just jumps out at you. I'd been hearing about some unknown photographer in Chicago from Julia and hadn't had time to focus my attention. What a life altering find for Maloof. Some writer or filmmaker could tell a profound story from this material about the nature of life and art and the private self.