Vivian Maier lived a quiet and unassuming life working as a nanny in the North Shore suburbs of Chicago. From the 1950’s on and over the course of three decades she took more than 100,000 photos of everyday urban scenes, mainly in Chicago and New York, and left most of them undeveloped in a storage unit.
If it wasn’t for young hobby historian John Maloof, who bought an unmarked box of undeveloped negatives at an auction house in 2007, it’s likely no one would have ever heard about her art.
Once he started scanning these negatives and posting them online to overwhelmingly positive comments, he realised he had unearthed something rare and special – a photographer who not only had a great eye for framing, light and environment but also a fantastic sense of human warmth, humour and tragedy.
Fast forward seven years and today a renowned New York art gallery is dealing Maier’s art. Limited print editions of her photographs sell for thousands of dollars, several books about her work have been published and an exhibition with selected artworks is travelling the world.
If Maier, who died poor and alone in a nursing home in April 2009, unaware of her soon to rise star, would approve of all this – we will never know. As a photographer she seems to have been relentless in her hunt for potential photographic subjects but her personality also had an extremely secretive and secluded side.
The film Finding Vivian Maier documents the amazing discovery of her legacy and delivers a thrilling portrait of an extremely talented artist living a secretive and mysterious life. Using every-day items that Maier had collected and left in storage the filmmakers unearth information about the photographer that often surprises those who thought they knew her best.
Finding Vivian Maier comes to cinemas in Australia and New Zealand on November 6 and Vivian Maier’s work will be shown for the first time in Australasia at the Centre For Contemporary Photography in Melbourne as part of the prestigious Melbourne Festival in October 2014.