Several months ago I learned about a Chicago street photographer that has become an international sensation. Vivian Maier is her name… or was her name. She passed away at the age of 83 a couple of years ago.
Boxes of photo negatives and personal effects were discovered in 2007 by a young real estate agent, John Maloof. Showing friends some of the photos he quickly learned that he was on to something. He began dedicating all of his time to developing negatives, taking interviews, hosting exhibits and now it seems he’s making a documentary of the untrained photographer.
I’ve followed her story since the beginning of 2011 and it seems I learn more and more about her as the months pass. Her back-story is slowly being fleshed out. Maier was born in New York City but was of European origin and moved back and forth between the continents. She later settled in Chicago as a nanny. She is described by the children of a family that she worked for as a Mary Poppins-like figure but others saw her as an walled-off recluse with no personal relationships.
Until you see the presence in her photos it’s difficult to know why her work has garnered attention. Seeing her work is like an intimate celebration of Chicago and as a recent transplant I appreciate the welcome.