Vivian Maier (1926-2009), Self-portrait, 1955
The Maloof Collection

I have been following the work, and the remarkable story of its discovery, of American street photographer Vivian Maier since it was introduced to the world in 2009, just six months after her death. She is now widely considered to be among the most important photographers of her generation. I love her eye and the way she portrayed the world through her images — often humorous, quite intellectual, always considered.  

Born in Manhattan in 1926 to a French mother and Austrian father, Meier was raised mainly by her mother in New York and also in the French Alps for a time. It is believed she began taking pictures in the 1940s in Europe. In 1951 she accepted her first position as a children’s caretaker, a position she would hold with a number of families throughout her life, which enabled her to pursue photography, her mostly secret avocation. By the mid-1950s, Maier had relocated to Chicago where she would remain and whose streets became her subject matter.

To say that Maier was prolific is an understatement, to say that she was intensely private is not. After falling behind on rent payments at the storage facility where she kept her undeveloped rolls of film, negatives, slides and 8mm films, these tens of thousands of items were divided and sold at auction. One of these collections, containing some 30,000 negatives, was purchased by Chicago historian John Maloof. Her work had never been shown in public during her lifetime, it was Maloof who first showed us. In addition to numerous exhibitions, Maloof has also directed a documentary, Finding Vivian Maier, that premiered in September at the Toronoto International Film Festival and will be released in 2014. And last week, Vivian Maier: Self Portrait opened at Howard Greenberg Gallery, a wonderfully curated show and one definitely not to be missed. 

Vivian Maier: Self Portrait runs through December 14 at Howard Greenberg Gallery, 41 East 57th Street, NYC