The large body of work that contains over 100.000 negatives, serves as a testament to Vivian Maier's dedication to photography. During her lifetime the fame and well-deserved recognition have eluded her, but today nearly a decade after her death on April 21st, 2009, Mrs. Maier's work is exhibited in museums and galleries throughout the world and it has its rightful place in the history of photography.
The unusual story of Vivian Dorothy Maier's life starts in New York on February 1, 1926, where she was born to a French mother and an Austrian father. During her childhood, she has often moved between France and the United States, before finally settling in New York in 1951. A year later, in 1952 she had purchased her first Roloflex camera, that will define her early style of photography.
In 1956, Vivian moved to Chicago to be a nanny for a family which provided her with accommodation that would enable her to create her own darkroom and develop her own film. As her tenure with her first family approached its end, Mrs. Maier had to look for new employers, which had forced her to start storing the rolls of film and wait for better financial circumstances to develop them.
She traveled the world in 1959 and in 1960 and she visited Italy, India, Manila and numerous other places around the globe. Vivian documented her journeys meticulously, but like the rest of her work, these images will not see the light of the day, until much later.
For five decades, Mrs. Maier has kept her hobby a secret, and even those who were closest to her couldn't imagine the scope of the work she has produced. The photographs Vivian Maier has created are filled with the fast-paced life she witnessed on the streets of New York, Chicago and all other cities she visited.
Pictures she produced during the 1950's and the 1960's often depict strangers she encountered on the streets, who were totally unaware of the fact that they were being photographed. Vivian's Roloflex camera has enabled her to take pictures from the waist and remain unnoticed by the subjects of her photos.
The constant financial problems have eventually forced Mrs. Maier to stop taking pictures and after nearly half a century she finally had to put her camera down.
The last twenty years of Vivian Maier's life were not filled with happiness or joy she deserved, and if it wasn't for the children who regarded her as their favorite nanny, she would end up being homeless.
Ironically, the financial difficulties she faced have led to the discovery of her work, just two years before her death. Mrs. Maier has failed to pay the rent for a storage space she used and as a consequence, all of her prints, undeveloped rolls of film and even her audio recordings were auctioned. Luckily parts of the negatives were purchased by the photography collector John Maloof, who has led the legal battle to preserve her legacy, in the subsequent years.
Vivian Maier was a photographer whose genius has remained a secret until the very end of her life, but the power of her story and her work continues to live and inspire people around the world.