Maier, Vivian

Maier, Vivian, 1926–2009, American photographer, b. Bronx, N.Y. She spent much of her childhood and early adulthood in France, where she began photographing street scenes; she moved in 1951 to New York and in 1956 to Chicago, where she worked as a nanny to support herself. She recorded street life, often focusing on children, the elderly, or the indigent and homeless but also photographing herself or buildings, creating a black-and-white portrait of Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, and other cities during the 1950s and 60s. She switched to color in the mid-1970s. Maier also took striking pictures of the people and places she visited while traveling the world. Her sense of composition and of humanity has been compared to that of Walker Evans, Robert Frank, and others. Extremely private, she developed her photographs with care when possible (many remained only on thousands of film rolls) but never showed her work, which she kept in storage until they were auctioned (due to unpaid fees) two years before her death. A Chicagoan who bought most of her work first publicized it on a website; her photographs have since been shown in galleries and published.

See photographs ed. by J. Maloof (2011, 2013, and 2014) and by R. Cahan and M. Williams (2012 and 2014); biography by P. Bannos (2017); documentaries dir. by J. Maloof and C. Siskell (2013), J. Nicholls (2013), and R. A. Huang (2017).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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