I wanted to share this incredibly inspiring story of a Chicago nanny named Vivian Maier (1926-2009), who spent the majority of her life in solitude, but traveled the streets of Chicago and the entire world, taking candid photos using her Rolleiflex medium-format TLR camera.
She was a very private woman who kept to herself, and indeed very little is actually known about her at all, even by the families she cared for. But this solitary mystique seemed to translate very well into a hobby of spending entire days off with a camera strapped around her neck, documenting her daily life as it unfolded around her:
The quality of her work easily stacks up to some of the greatest names in street and candid photography, but her work — never published, never exhibited — was in danger of being lost forever. Until one day, a bin full of tens of thousands of Vivian’s negatives was purchased by chance at an open auction, by a Chicago man named John Maloof. As John scanned negative after negative on his computer, he slowly started to realize he could have perhaps stumbled upon an artistic and historic goldmine.
I encourage you to take a look at the website dedicated to her work. You will see some incredible black and white imagery, spanning decades of the 20th century that sheds a little insight into how she saw the world. Below is a television editorial from WTTW Chicago that tells the full story of how her work came to be discovered:
There are even plans of filming a documentary of her life and the discovery of it. An exhibition of her work will be unveiled at the Chicago Cultural Center tomorrow (Jan 7th). Admission is free.