About Vivian Maier | Vivian Maier Photographer (2023)

About Vivian Maier | Vivian Maier Photographer (1)

A riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.

Piecing together Vivian Maier’s life can easily evoke Churchill’s famous quote about the vast land of Tsars and commissars that lay to the east. A person who fit the stereotypical European sensibilities of an independent liberated woman, accent and all, yet born in New York City. Someone who was intensely guarded and private, Vivian could be counted on to feistily preach her own very liberal worldview to anyone who cared to listen, or didn’t. Decidedly unmaterialistic, Vivian would come to amass a group of storage lockers stuffed to the brim with found items, art books, newspaper clippings, home films, as well as political tchotchkes and knick-knacks. The story ofthis nanny who has now wowed the world with her photography, and who incidentally recorded some of the most interesting marvels and peculiarities of Urban America in the second half of the twentieth century is seemingly beyond belief.

An American of French and Austro-Hungarian extraction, Vivian bounced between Europe and the United States before coming back to New York City in 1951. Having picked up photography just two years earlier, she would comb the streets of the Big Apple refining her artistic craft. By 1956 Vivian left the East Coast for Chicago, where she’d spend most of the rest of her life working as a caregiver. In her leisure Vivian would shoot photos that she zealously hid from the eyes of others. Taking snapshots into the late 1990′s, Maier would leave behind a body of work comprising over 100,000 negatives.Additionally Vivian’s passion for documenting extended to a series of homemade documentary films and audio recordings.

Interesting bits of Americana, the demolition of historic landmarks for new development, the unseen lives of various groups of people and the destitute, as well as some of Chicago’s most cherished sites were all meticulously catalogued by Vivian Maier.

A free spirit but also a proud soul, Vivian became poor and was ultimately saved by three of the children she had nannied earlier in her life. Fondly remembering Maier as a second mother, they pooled together to pay for an apartment and took the best of care for her. Unbeknownst to them, one of Vivian’s storage lockers was auctioned off due to delinquent payments. In those storage lockers lay the massive hoard of negatives Maier secretly stashed throughout her lifetime.

Maier’s massive body of work would come to light when in 2007 her work was discovered at a local thrift auction house on Chicago’s Northwest Side. From there, it would eventually impact the world over and change the life of the man who championed her work and brought it to the public eye, John Maloof.

Currently, Vivian Maier’s body of work is being archived and cataloged for the enjoyment of others and for future generations. John Maloof is at the core of this project after reconstructing most of the archive, having been previously dispersed to the various buyers attending that auction. Now, with roughly 90% of her archive reconstructed, Vivian’s work is part of a renaissance in interest in the art of Street Photography.

(Video) Meet Vivian Maier I Photographer's Profiles

Vivian Maier

“Well, I suppose nothing is meant to last forever. We have to make room for other people. It’s a wheel. You get on, you have to go to the end. And then somebody has the same opportunity to go to the end and so on.” – Vivian Maier

Vivian Maier (February 1, 1926 – April 21, 2009) was an American street photographer born in New York City. Although born in the U.S., it was in France that Maier spent most of her youth. Maier returned to the U.S. in 1951 where she took up work as a nanny and care-giver for the rest of her life. In her leisure however, Maier had begun to venture into the art of photography. Consistently taking photos over the course of five decades, she would ultimately leave over 100,000 negatives, most of them shot in Chicago and New York City. Vivian would further indulge in her passionate devotion to documenting the world around her through homemade films, recordings and collections, assembling one of the most fascinating windows into American life in the second half of the twentieth century.

Early Years

Maier was born to a French mother and Austrian father in the Bronx borough of New York City. The census records although useful, give us an incomplete picture. We find Vivian at the age of four living in NYC with only her mother along with Jeanne Bertrand, an award winning portrait photographer, her father was already out of the picture. Later records show Vivian returning to the U.S. from France in 1939 with her mother, Marie Maier. Again in 1951 we have records of her subsequent return home from France, this time however, without her mother.

Vivian Maier’s Kodak Brownie

Sometime in 1949, while still in France, Vivian began toying with her first photos. Her camera was a modest Kodak Brownie box camera, an amateur camera with only one shutter speed, no focus control, and no aperture dial. The viewer screen is tiny, and for the controlled landscape or portrait artist, it would arguably impose a wedge in between Vivian and her intentions due to its inaccuracy. Her intentions were at the mercy of this feeble machine. In 1951, Maier returns to NY on the steamship ‘De-Grass’, and she nestles in with a family in Southampton as a nanny.

In 1952, Vivian purchases a Rolleiflex camera to fulfill her fixation. She stays with this family for most of her stay in New York until 1956, when she makes her final move to the North Shore suburbs of Chicago. Another family would employ Vivian as a nanny for their three boys and would become her closest family for the remainder of her life.

Later Years

In 1956, when Maier moved to Chicago, she enjoyed the luxury of a darkroom as well as a private bathroom. This allowed her to process her prints and develop her own rolls of B&W film. As the children entered adulthood, the end of Maier’s employment from that first Chicago family in the early seventies forced her to abandon developing her own film. As she would move from family to family, her rolls of undeveloped, unprinted work began to collect.

Left: Vivian Maier’s bathroom doubled as a darkroom. Right: Some of Vivian Maier’s various cameras

(Video) Vivian Maier

Top: A Vivian Maier color photograph from 1973
Bottom: Maier’s undeveloped film

It was around this time that Maier decided to switch to color photography, shooting on mostly Kodak Ektachrome 35mm film, using a Leica IIIc, and various German SLR cameras. The color work would have an edge to it that hadn’t been visible in Maier’s work before that, and it became more abstract as time went on. People slowly crept out of her photos to be replaced with found objects, newspapers, and graffiti.

Similarly, her work was showing a compulsion to save items she would find in garbage cans or lying beside the curb.

In the 1980s Vivian would face another challenge with her work. Financial stress and lack of stability would once again put her processing on hold and the color Ektachrome rolls began to pile. Sometime between the late 1990’s and the first years of the new millennium, Vivian would put down her camera and keep her belongings in storage while she tried to stay afloat. She bounced from homelessness to a small studio apartment which a family she used to work for helped to pay. With meager means, the photographs in storage became lost memories until they were sold off due to non-payment of rent in 2007. The negatives were auctioned off by the storage company to RPN Sales, who parted out the boxes in a much larger auction to several buyers including John Maloof.

In 2008 Vivian fell on a patch of ice and hit her head in downtown Chicago. Although she was expected to make a full recovery, her health began to deteriorate, forcing Vivian into a nursing home. She passed away a short time later in April of 2009, leaving behind her immense archive of work.

(Video) Vivian Maier

Personal Life

Vivian Maier swinging on a vine

Often described as ‘Mary-Poppin’s’, Vivian Maier had eccentricity on her side as a nanny for three boys who she raised like a mother. Starting in 1956, working for a family in an upper-class suburb of Chicago along Lake Michigan’s shore, Vivian had a taste of motherhood. She’d take the boys on trips to strawberry fields to pick berries. She’d find a dead snake on the curb and bring it home to show off to the boys or organize plays with all of the children on the block. Vivian was a free spirit and followed her curiosities wherever they led her.

Having told others she had learned English from theaters and plays, Vivian’s ‘theater of life’ was acted out in front of her eyes for her camera to capture in the most epic moments. Vivian had an interesting history. Her family was completely out of the picture very early on in her life, forcing her to become singular, as she would remain for the rest of her life. She never married, had no children, nor any very close friends that could say they “knew” her on a personal level.

Maier’s photos also betray an affinity for the poor, arguably because of an emotional kinship she felt with those struggling to get by. Her thirst to be cultured led her around the globe. At this point we know of trips to Canada in 1951 and 1955, in 1957 to South America, in 1959 to Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, in 1960 to Florida, in 1965 she’d travel to the Caribbean Islands, and so on. It is to be noted that she traveled alone and gravitated toward the less fortunate in society.

Vivian Maier’s travel itinerary from 1957

(Video) Vivian Maier, Photographer

Her travels to search out the exotic caused her to seek out the unusual in her own backyard as well. Whether it was the overlooked sadness of Yugoslavian émigrés burying their Czar, the final go-around at the legendary stockyards, a Polish film screening at the Milford Theater’s Cinema Polski, or Chicagoans welcoming home the Apollo Crew, she was a one-person documenting impresario, documenting what caught her eye, in photos, film and sound.

The personal accounts from people who knew Vivian are all very similar. She was eccentric, strong, heavily opinionated, highly intellectual, and intensely private. She wore a floppy hat, a long dress, wool coat, and men’s shoes and walked with a powerful stride. With a camera around her neck whenever she left the house, she would obsessively take pictures, but never showed her photos to anyone. An unabashed and unapologetic original.


All of the images that you’ll find on this website are not from prints made by Maier, but rather from new scans prepared from Vivian’s negatives. This naturally leads one to the issue of artistic intent. What would Vivian have printed? How? These are valid concerns, the reason utmost attention has been given to learn the styles she favored in her work. It required meticulously studying the prints that Maier, herself, had printed, as well as the many, many notes given to labs with instructions on how to print and crop, what type of paper, what finish on the paper, etc.

Some of Maier’s print instructions

Whenever her work has been exhibited, such as for the exhibit at the Chicago Cultural Center, this information is factored in mind to interpret her work as closely as possible to her original process.

Jeanne Bertrand

(Video) Street Photography master, Vivian Maier ... lessons from her street portraits

Jeanne Bertrand in a Boston Globe article from 1902

Jeanne Bertrand was a notable figure in Vivian’s life. Census records list her as the head of household, living together with Vivian and her mother in 1930. Jeanne’s upbringing was similar to Vivian’s – she grew up poor, lost her father while young, and worked in a needle factory in sweatshop like conditions. Yet by 1905 we can read about Jeanne Bertrand in the Boston Globe, being touted as one of the most eminent photographers of Connecticut. What makes this even more surprising is that Bertand had picked up photography only four years prior to that report. But, even if Bertrand was an early influence, it must also be noted that Bertrand was a portrait photographer. Vivian first picked up a camera in the southern French Alps in about 1949. The photographs she took were controlled portraits and landscapes. The odds are strong that Vivian might have been taught by Jeanne Bertrand.

In 1951, Vivian arrived in New York City continuing the same techniques she practiced in France with the same Kodak Brownie camera in 6×9 film format. But, in 1952, Vivian’s work changed dramatically. She began shooting with a square format. She bought an expensive Rolleiflex camera – a huge leap from the amateur box camera she first used. Her eye had changed. She was capturing the spontaneity of street scenes with precision reminiscent of Henri-Cartier-Bresson, street portraits evocative of Lisette Model and fantastic compositions similar to Andre Kertesz. 1952 was the year that that Vivian’s classic style began to take shape.


What kind of photographer was Vivian Maier? ›

Vivian Maier (February 1, 1926 – April 21, 2009) was an American street photographer born in New York City.

What techniques did Vivian Maier use? ›

Over the course of her career she used Rolleiflex 3.5T, Rolleiflex 3.5F, Rolleiflex 2.8C, Rolleiflex Automat and others.

What kind of camera did Vivian use and why was it good for the type of photography she made? ›

Vivian Maier went through many cameras in her life, but most “fateful” for her was the twin-lens Rolleiflex line, with which she began taking pictures in 1952. For the curious: she used a Rolleiflex 3.5T, a Rolleiflex 3.5F, a Rolleiflex 2.8C, and a Rolleiflex Automat.

Why did Vivian Maier hide her photos? ›

Say if she'd managed to find the money to get her pictures properly printed, and the art-world connections to get them exhibited, would she have been taken seriously? Bannos reports that Maier told a friend that “if she had not kept her images secret, people would have stolen or misused them”.

What made Vivian Maier famous? ›

The story of Maier's rise to critical acclaim is just as compelling as her art. She worked as a professional nanny for more than 40 years, during which she secretly took more than 150,000 photographs.

Who is the greatest sports photographer of all time? ›

10 the most famous sports photographers to follow The top creative talent that we can all learn from
  1. Neil Leifer. In the ilk of famous sports photographers, Neil Leifer is one of the best. ...
  2. Hy Money. ...
  3. Aaron Chang. ...
  4. Camilla Rutherford. ...
  5. Richard Heathcote. ...
  6. Chris Burkard. ...
  7. Tom Jenkins. ...
  8. Lynne Cameron.
Jul 6, 2021

How many photographs did Vivian Maier take? ›

Maier took over 150,000 photographs in her lifetime, however her images remained unpublished until they attracted critical acclaim in 2007. Maier's life has since become the subject of films and books, including Christina Hesselholdt's newly-translated book, Vivian (2016/2019).

Did Vivian Maier take self-portraits? ›

Maier took self-portraits throughout her career, often using techniques such as mirrors or shadows to signal her presence without facing the camera. She also took many candid photos of people she met on the city streets. They have a natural spontaneity.

What was the idea behind the camera? ›

The history of the camera can be traced all the way back to the ancient Greeks and ancient Chinese. These early civilisations used a very simple optical device, called a camera obscura, to project real-life scenes on a surface or wall.

What has the camera captured how is it important to the poet? ›

The camera has captured a happy moment from the childhood days of the poet's mother. The photograph was taken when the poet's mother (at the age of twelve or so) went to a beach holiday with two of her cousins, Betty and Dolly. The captured picture serves as a preserved memory both for the mother as well as the poet.

Who owns Vivian Maier photos? ›

Maloof, who runs the Maloof Collection, now owns around 90% of Maier's total output, including 100,000 to 150,000 negatives, more than 3,000 vintage prints, hundreds of rolls of film, home movies, audio tape interviews, and ephemera including cameras and paperwork, which he claims represents roughly 90 percent of her ...

Who was the photographer of weird people? ›

Diane Arbus is known for creating intense black and white photographs of very unusual people. She used a special camera that produced square shaped images. Often her subjects look sad, conflicted or physically abnormal.

Who is the best street photographer? ›

Henri Cartier-Bresson

The most famous street photographer of all time is the French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908 – 2004). He is known for his candid photography and capturing the “decisive moment“. The decisive moment is the precise moment of action.

Who was the first adventure photographer? ›

Experts claim that the oldest travel photo was taken in 1825 by Joseph Niépce, depicting a street scene in France.

Who is the American female photographer black and white? ›

16. Sally Mann. The American Sally Mann (born May 1, 1951) is among the most famous female photographers. She is best known for her iconic large-format, black-and-white photographs.

Where is Vivian Maier's work displayed? ›

Vivian Maier at Arlington Museum of Art.

Who is the No 1 photographer in world? ›

1. Ansel Adams is probably the most easily recognized name of any photographer. His landscapes are stunning; he achieved an unparalleled level of contrast using creative darkroom work.

Who is the most famous photographer 2022? ›

The winner and Photographer of the Year 2022 is Marcus Yam (USA) with his image “Afghanistan's air force is a rare U.S.-backed success story.

Who owns Vivian Maier's work? ›

Vivian Maier, a prolific amateur photographer who has achieved international posthumous fame and acclaim, died intestate in 2009. John Maloof, a former real estate agent in Chicago, obtained thousands of Maier's photographic negatives and other works, in most cases, the only known copies of the works Maier created.

What is the analysis of Vivian Maier self-portrait? ›

Maier's self-portrait demonstrates a rejection of gendered expectations and sheds light on the invisibility of the unmarried, childless woman and child care worker. In the early 1940s, women made their mark in the workplace, but it was only “for the duration” of the war.

Who scans Vivian Maier negatives? ›

Vivian Maier: The Discovery
  • In 2007 John Maloof paid $400 for a box in a blind auction in Chicago. ...
  • Two years later, however, Maloof's interest in the negatives was piqued and he set about scanning them into his computer. ...
  • The only mention of Maier found through an internet search was a brief obituary.

What film did Vivian Maier shoot? ›

Which film stock did Vivian Maier use? She mainly shot black and white film. Usually Kodak Tri-X.

How do you take illusion photos? ›

How To Take a Forced Perspective Photo
  1. Choose Your Equipment. ...
  2. Plan Your Photo Ahead of Time. ...
  3. Make Adjustments as You Go. ...
  4. Make Sure That Both of Your Subjects Are in Focus. ...
  5. Try a Wide Angle Lens. ...
  6. Use a Large, Open Space as Your Setting. ...
  7. Keep Your Photo Simple. ...
  8. Hire a Model.
May 5, 2021

Who developed Vivian Maier? ›

Film Information
Directors:John Maloof, Charlie Siskel
Producer:John Maloof, Charlie Siskel
Production Company:Ravine Pictures, LLC
Screenplay:John Maloof, Charlie Siskel
Cinematographer:John Maloof
13 more rows

What are the 3 important thing in camera? ›

The Three Most Important Settings On Your Camera
  • Shutter Speed. Shutter Speed is probably the easiest one to understand. ...
  • Aperture. Aperture controls how much light can travel through your lens at any moment. ...
  • ISO. The final factor at play is ISO.

What was the first photo ever taken? ›

Centuries of advances in chemistry and optics, including the invention of the camera obscura, set the stage for the world's first photograph. In 1826, French scientist Joseph Nicéphore Niépce, took that photograph, titled View from the Window at Le Gras, at his family's country home.

Who took the first photograph? ›

It is the earliest photograph produced with the aid of the camera obscura known to survive today. The photograph was made by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce (1765–1833), born to a prominent family at Chalon-sur-Saône in the Burgundy region of France.

What is the message behind the poem a photographer? ›

The poetess through the poem photograph conveys the message of impermanence of life. The poetess wanted to show that change is the only static thing in life.

What do we learn from the poem the photograph? ›

The poem A Photograph carries the message of mortality and transient nature of human beings. The whole poem is about loss, separation and sorrow. Unlike sea, we humans change quickly and die one day. In addition, the poem also carries the message of bearing the pain.

What is the summary of the poem a photograph? ›

Summary of a Photograph

In the poem, poetess describes a photograph of her mothers' childhood. In the photograph of time when she went for a sea holiday with her two girl cousins. Also, poetess contrasts between nature, altering at the pace of a snail and the fast-changing human life.

How much do Vivian Maier photos cost? ›

Numerous key galleries and museums such as Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation have featured Vivian Maier's work in the past. Vivian Maier's work has been offered at auction multiple times, with realized prices ranging from 875 USD to 5,519 USD, depending on the size and medium of the artwork.

Did Vivian Maier have a will? ›

In 2009, Maier died without a will or any known relatives who would be the heirs to her estate.

Who was a famous photographer during the Depression? ›

Dorothea Lange (born Dorothea Margaretta Nutzhorn; May 26, 1895 – October 11, 1965) was an American documentary photographer and photojournalist, best known for her Depression-era work for the Farm Security Administration (FSA).

What was the human side to the photographer? ›

l. What was the human side to the photographer? The photographer told Leacock “Your face would be better three quarters full. This was the human side of the photographer.

Who was the photographer that found Marilyn Monroe? ›

He preferred to take pictures of ordinary people. But in events separated by six years, he took indelible pictures of two people who transcended celebrity.

What is the highest pay for a photographer? ›

The best Photographer jobs can pay up to $134,500 per year.

Professional photographers capture moments using cameras and other equipment.

Who are the top 3 most important personalities in the field of photography? ›

But that's the beauty of photography, everyone interprets and appreciates it in their own way, so enjoy!
  • 1 – Ansel Adams (February 20, 1902 – April 22, 1984) ...
  • 2 – Richard Avedon (15 May, 1923 – 1 October, 2004) ...
  • 3 – Eve Arnold (21 April, 1912 – 4 January, 2012) ...
  • 4 – Diane Arbus (March 14, 1923 – July 26, 1971)
May 21, 2022

Which photographer was a muckraker? ›

Jacob Riis was a reporter, a photographer, photojournalist, and "muckraker" journalist, whose work initiated reforms toward better living conditions for the thousands of people living in poorhouses in New York City slums.

Who was the creepy photographer? ›

Terry Richardson
Richardson in 2012
BornAugust 14, 1965 New York City, U.S
OccupationFashion photographer
Years active1993–2018
7 more rows

Who is a famous surreal photographer? ›

Surrealist photographs of Man Ray, Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst, Andre Breton, Brassai, Salvador Dali, Philippe Halsman, Andre Kertesz and Hans Bellmer are considered giants of art with their disorienting and exquisite creations, advancing the cultural movement that began in the early 1920s.

Who is a well known medical photographer? ›

Joseph Gascho with portraits of patients. As a cardiologist and a photographer, Joseph Gascho has combined those worlds into art that illuminates patients and his fellow healthcare colleagues as human beings.

Who were 3 muckrakers? ›

Lincoln Steffens, Ray Stannard Baker, and Ida M. Tarbell are considered to have been the first muckrakers, when they wrote articles on municipal government, labour, and trusts in the January 1903 issue of McClure's Magazine.

Who was the most successful muckraker? ›

Sinclair was one of the most famous muckrakers of the Progressive Era, and had written The Jungle in 1905 to raise public awareness of the exploitation and foul conditions to which workers in the meatpacking industry were subjected.

Who is the photographer accused of abuse? ›

A 72-year-old Ontario school photographer sexually abused children in Southern California for decades, police say. A man who shot school photos of Southern California children for decades faces sexual abuse charges, Ontario police reported. Philbert Hernandez, 72, was arrested Tuesday, Dec.

Who was Hitler's private photographer? ›


Who is the disgraced fashion photographer? ›

Terry Richardson, a photographer who made a name for himself with highly sexualized fashion portraits and who later saw his career nosedive over accusations of sexual harassment during shoots, has sold his SoHo home and studio, a former firehouse.

Who is the best known photographer? ›

1. Ansel Adams. Ansel Adams is potentially the most famous American photographer of the 20th century, and perhaps all time. Known for his large-format black-and-white photography of the American West, Adams developed unique techniques like the Zone System that modern photographers still use today.

Who is the first famous female photographer? ›

Anna Atkins was one of the earliest photographers and she created what can be considered the first published books of photography: Photographs of British and Foreign Algae (1843–1853).


1. Vivian Maier - The Secret Photographer
(about photography)
2. 3 Lessons by Vivian Maier (Street & documentary photography)
(Unisono Photography)
3. VIVIAN MAIER Self Portraits
(Rafael Bosco Vieira)
4. Vivian Maier, street photographer and nanny
5. Masha Ivashintsova, the Russian Vivian Maier.
(T. Hopper)
6. The Vivian Maier Lawsuit Begins
(The Art of Photography)
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