Vivian Maier, Street Photographer


Vivian Maier had a comfortable life as a nanny, living in the suburbs of Chicago, in a reasonably wealthy community in a quiet residential area. When her work was finished, however, she would leave the suburbs for central Chicago or New York to photograph.

Wandering the streets, Maier would use her Rolliflex twin lens camera to capture the lives of people in the city. Portraits of distinctive individuals, often the homeless or groups of children at play in the road. Her pictures were shot from the hip, looking down into the camera, making no eye contact with the subject. This created a divide between photographer and subject, a barrier behind which Maier could work without interruption. Her photographs show her exceptional eye for detail and flair for composition. They are witty and intelligent, and charged with a strong sense of empathy. She took photographs of the downtrodden as well as the well-heeled, of youth and of age. Maier was endlessly inspired by the lives around her.

Although Maier would on average shoot a roll of film a day, producing just under 100 exposures a week, she very rarely showed her work to anyone. Her handprints, made in the en-suite bathroom of her employer’s home, were kept secret.

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