Vivian Maier (February 1, 1926 – April 21, 2009) was an American amateur street photographer who was born in New York but grew up in France, and after returning to the U.S., worked for about forty years as a nanny in Chicago. During those years she took about 100,000 photographs, primarily of people and cityscapes most often in Chicago, although she traveled worldwide, taking pictures in each location.
Her photographs remained unknown and mostly undeveloped until they were discovered by a local historian in 2007. Following Maier’s death her work began to receive critical acclaim. Her photographs have appeared in newspapers in Italy, Argentina, and England, and have been exhibited alongside other artists’ work in Denmark and Norway; her first solo exhibition is running at the Chicago Cultural Center from January to April 2011.
Many of the details of Maier’s life are still being uncovered. Initial impressions about her life indicated that she was born in France, but further searching revealed that she was born in New York, the daughter of Maria Jaussaud, who was French, and Charles Maier, who was Austrian. Vivian moved between the U.S. and France several times during her childhood, although where in France she lived is unknown. Her father seems to have left the family for unknown reasons by 1930. During the census that year, the head of the household was listed as award-winning portrait photographer Jeanne Bertrand, who knew the founder of the Whitney Museum of American Art.
In 1951, at 25 years old, Vivian Maier moved from France to New York, where she worked for some time in a sweatshop. She made her way to the Chicago area‘s North Shore in 1956 and became a nanny on and off for about 40 years, staying with one family for 14 of them. She was, in the accounts of the families for whom she worked, very private, spending her days off walking the streets of Chicago and taking photographs, most often with a Rolleiflex camera.
John Maloof, curator of Maier’s collection of photographs, summarizes the way the children she nannied would later describe her:
She was a Socialist, a Feminist, a movie critic, and a tell-it-like-it-is type of person. She learned English by going to theaters, which she loved. She wore a men’s jacket, men’s shoes and a large hat most of the time. She was constantly taking pictures, which she didn’t show anyone.
Between 1959 and 1960, Maier traveled to Los Angeles, Manila, Bangkok, Beijing, Egypt, Italy, and the American Southwest, taking pictures in each location. The trip was probably financed by the sale of a family farm in Alsace. For a brief period in the 1970s, Maier worked as a nanny for Phil Donahue‘s children. As she got older, she collected more boxes of belongings, bringing them with her to each new post. At one employer’s house she stored 200 boxes of materials. Most were photographs or negatives, but Maier collected other objects, such as newspapers, and sometimes recorded audiotapes of conversations she had with the people she photographed.
Towards the end of her life, Maier may have been homeless for some time. She lived on Social Security checks and may have had another source of income, but the children she had taken care of in the early 1950s bought her an apartment and paid her bills. In 2008, she slipped on ice and hit her head. She did not fully recover and died in 2009 at the age of 83.
Maier’s images depict street scenes in Chicago and New York in the 1950s and 1960s. An article in The Independent characterizes her photographs thus:
The well-to-do shoppers of Chicago stroll and gossip in all their department-store finery before Maier, but the most arresting subjects are those people on the margins of successful, rich America in the 1950s and 1960s: the kids, the black maids, the bums flaked out on shop stoops.
Maier’s photographic legacy, in the form of some 100,000 negatives — a large portion in the form of undeveloped rolls — was discovered by 26-year-old real estate agent John Maloof, also president of the Jefferson Park Historical Society in Chicago. While working on a book about the Chicago neighborhood of Portage Park, Maloof bought 30,000 prints and negatives from an auction house that had acquired the photographs from a storage locker that had been sold off when Maier was no longer able to pay her fees. After purchasing the first collection of Maier photographs in 2007, Maloof acquired the rest from another buyer at the same auction.
Maloof discovered Maier’s name at an early stage of his discovery, but was unable to find out more about her until just after her death, when he found an obituary notice in the Chicago Tribune. Her work was first published on the internet in July of 2008 by Ron Slattery who had also purchased a good deal of her work at auction. In 2009, Maloof started to post some of Maier’s photographs on a blog, and later he announced his intention to publish a photo book of Maier’s photography. The book is scheduled to be released in fall 2011, and a feature-length documentary film about Maier and Maloof’s discovery of her work, titled Finding Vivian Maier, is scheduled for release in 2012.
Lech Majewski worked with art historian to interpret Christ Carrying the Cross painted in 1564.
Le Figaro FR (English Translation)
The auditorium of the Louvre will broadcast premiere on Feb. 2 as part of the fourth edition of the International Days of Films on Art, The Mill and the Cross of Lech Majewski.
This is not the first filmmaker flirting with the visual arts. In 1996 he produced and wrote the biopic Basquiat on the meteor New York. Besides the astonishing plastic beauty of the images and the presence of Rutger Hauer, Charlotte Rampling and Michael York, the interest of this work lies in a completely original design. Everything is indeed based on a single table in which the viewer will be immersed.
Become a text script
This is the port cross Pieter Bruegel the Elder executed in 1564 during the brutal occupation of Flanders by the Spanish. The oil of 1.70 m by 1.24 m is now in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. The art historian Michael F. Gibson extensively analyzed and its text became scenario. “Why the painter he concealed the central figure of Christ among a crowd of peasants? he asked.
Why, in a Renaissance landscape, he gave considerable importance to an improbable mill perched on an enigmatic rock? Why are policemen who flank the procession are they red uniform? What does the archaic style of the holy women? Past and future, life and death, destiny and freedom shape this teeming fresco, which has at least five hundred characters heading toward Golgotha. In Vienna we can not enjoy the thousand sketches and anecdotes with a magnifying glass and a stool. All are significant. “
His essay published by Noesis in 1996 is bright. It explains why the particular artist imagines the Passion in the sixteenth century: “Brueghel’s approach is to use the immediate political situation to understand the history of the messiah in not taking the story of Christ to condemn the atrocities in Spain.
But the movie that flows from his reading, combining analog and synthetic imagery to 3D, producing a manner equivalent to the visual interpretation, book an extra sense. For example, it is only during the shooting, Michael F. Gibson was able to discern the different perspectives structuring the composition. There are seven A magic number.
end ; )