Vivian Maier: Bold, Mysterious, Eccentric, Misunderstood and Caring.

Updated: May 5, 2021

It all began when Winter John Maloof attended an auction and bought a box of negatives, for which, he paid $300. Maloof noticed that the negatives once belonged to a lady by the name of Vivian Maier. Once he had started sifting through the box, he realised not only the sheer amount of negatives, but how stunning some of the images were. This led him to make a photo blog of around 200 images from the collection and contacted galleries, but they did not want anything to do with the images. Maloof then decided not to give up and that he would write a post about the images on Flickr and it went viral, this made him track down the other boxes of negatives that were bought at the auction and he bought them all.

Among the new boxes of negatives Maloof

found a leather chest that was filmed to the

brim with undeveloped film.

Vivian Maier was born February 1st, 1926 in Manhattan, USA. She lived a portion of her life in Saint-Bonnet-en-Champsaur, France and passed away in Illinois, USA on 21st of April, 2009. Nobody really ever knew what happened to Maier, the last they saw of her was being taken in an ambulance after falling and hitting her head in a public park. It has come to knowledge that she was buried in with a wild patch of berries, a beloved place of hers.

Her entire family were almost impossible to track down and all that is known about them is that her Mother is Maria Jaussaud Justin (French) and her Father is Charles Maier. Maier had an older brother but there is no information on him, not even a name.

Maier worked as a live-in nannie and looked after numerous children throughout her career. Being a nannie gave her the freedom to go out and about with the children and this was essential to her so she could take photographs. She was a very secretive woman and felt the need to stay invisible so she would always use different variations of spelling her name e.g. Maier/Mayer. One thing that was consistent with Maier was that she would always, without fail have her camera close. An example of this was: One of the children that she was looking after had got knocked over and the first thing Maier done was grab her camera and took photos of the child laying on the floor and the ambulance crew.

In 1959 Maier told her employer that she was going to travel the world and that she would be back in 8 months. During this time, Maier visited countries such as: Bangkok, India, China, Thailand, Vietnam, Egypt, Yemen and all of South America.

Here is a small collection of images of the thousands she obtained on her world travels:

Vivian Maier.

June 27, 1959. Asia.

Vivian Maier.

July 10, 1959. Aden, Yemen.

Vivian Maier.

1959. Saigon, Vietnam

Vivian Maier.

June 5, 1959. Thailand.

Vivian Maier.

The Sphinx of Giza and the Pyramid of Khufu, 1959. Egypt.

Vivian Maier.

May 23, 1959. Hong Kong, China

Vivian Maier.

Self-Portrait, June 15, 1959.

Bangkok, Thailand.

Vivian Maier.

July 4, 1959. Kochi, India.

"We have to make room for other people. It's a wheel - you get on, you go to the end, and someone else has the same opportunity to go to the end, and so on, and somebody else takes their place. There's nothing new under the sun." - Vivian Maier

As you can see by the small collection of images above, Maier was able to achieve a towering magnitude in her images, this was obtained by Maier holding the camera by her stomach. She did this so not to give the impression that she was taking a photograph and the subject would be oblivious, conveying a very natural atmosphere. She was able to get strayers to accommodate her by being themselves. Not only did Maier love photography, but she enjoyed taking small movies with the children that she cared for. These were made using 8mm and 16mm films. People around Maier were always very confused as to why she would not share her photographs.

"Private, yet so prolific in art form" - Anonymous

The main reason why I am so drawn to Vivian Maier's work is due to that fact that she was able to capture moments in that moment and convey the feeling to her audience. I believe that the reason Maier never shared any of her work, was due to her just living her passion and preserving memories for herself and no-one else. It is a huge shame that she never got to witness how her images have influenced so many people, and the fact that she has become a worldwide name. I've learnt from Maier that it is always important to have your camera with you as when that moment arises, you will be able to savour the moment in more that just a memory.

"She had a sense of humour

and a sense of tragedy. She had it all"

- Mary Ellen Mark

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