Finding Vivian Maier: New Documentary Reveals the Vision of Obscure Chicago Street Photographer

The posthumous discovery of Vivian Maier’s photographs is an art world stunner on the order of Henry Darger‘s massive In the Realms of the Unreal.

The synchronicity makes one wonder.

He was a Chicago-based custodian.

She was a Chicago-based nanny.

They shared a compulsion to create—some might say document—but were so intensely private, the revelations of their respective lives’ work threw everyone for a loop.

Employers and neighbors found it hard to believe they’d had it in them. (View an online gallery of her work here.)

Curators, marveling at the quantity of their output and quality of the vision, piled on superlatives.

Something tells me the prickly Ms. Maier would not have appreciated any comparisons to a man whose work featured so many representations of naked, hermaphroditic girl-warriors being bayonetted, but death makes it difficult to keep hold of the reins gripped so tightly in life.

For the foreseeable future, Maier’s legacy rests in the hands of John Maloof, the young Chicagoan who bought her negatives from an unpaid storage unit for less than $400, hoping he might find something of relevance for a neighborhood history project. He got more than he bargained for, obviously, but the years spent scanning the unknown artist’s work is beginning to pay off in exhibitions, gallery representation, and a book. Now he is nearing completion of Finding Vivian Maier, a documentary film that promises to shed more light on this fascinating tale.

Would the subject have wanted this?

Perhaps that’s a question for the Henry Darger Study Center at the American Folk Art Museum

Related Content:

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Photography of Ludwig Wittgenstein Released by Archives at Cambridge

Ayun Halliday, a point and shoot hack, is related by marriage to another female street photographer with an interesting lens on history. Follow her @AyunHalliday



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