Vivian Maier, Street Photographer
(ed. John Maloof) reveals that behind each photograph are two stories: the details that inspired the photographer to capture the image in the first place and the fictional story that the viewer imagines as she beholds the finished photograph. In the case of Vivian Maier, there is a third story, and that is the story of how her photos were rescued from oblivion. In 2007, a young Chicago realtor named John Maloof placed a bid on the contents of a delinquent storage locker whose owner had recently died. Inside, he found tens of thousands of photographic negatives, mostly black and white, some of them quite elderly. Upon further inspection, he discovered that these pieces displayed an astonishing depth and were clearly the work of an accomplished photographer.
The artist, Vivian Maier, was born in France and emigrated to the United States in her twenties,
where she worked on and off as a nanny for forty years. Further research suggested that she traveled widely during her life and spent a period of time homeless. Over the years, she took countless photos of street life, choosing subject matter that most consider mundane and trivial. In doing so, she exposed the hidden dignity of the ordinary, in the style of predecessors like Henri Cartier-Bresson. Her use of shadow and framing often introduced a rich plethora of meanings to her work, and only now, several years after her death, is her work being given an unlikely (but well-deserved) reception.