The name Vivian Maier probably won’t mean anything to you but recently the name is starting to make her life a more interesting one. Vivian was born in 1926 in New York and was brought up in France. Aged 25 she returned to America to work in a sweetshop and later as a nanny for the next forty years. Nothing really remarkable there. Then in 2007 a 26-year-old real estate agent, John Maloof, also president of the Jefferson Park Historical Society in Chicago, John Maloof discovered more than 100,000 photographs and undeveloped film that Vivian Maier took of life on and about the streets during her life as a nanny in the USA. Her time in France, spent with her mother in the Alpine village of Saint-Bonnet-en-Champsaur, was where the interest for photography was born. In the census of 1930 the head of her household was given as award-winning portrait photographer Jeanne Bertrand.
Vivian’s photography talent is one of the near missed and luckily was discovered for what it is and brought to the attention of the main stream media shortly after her work was catalogued. John Maloof, curator of some of Maier’s 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 was constantly taking pictures, which she didn’t show anyone.
Toward the end of her life, Maier may have been homeless for some time. She lived on Social Security and may have had another source of income. The children she had cared for in the early 1950s bought her an apartment in the Rogers Park area of Chicago and paid her bills. In 2008, she slipped on ice and hit her head. She did not fully recover and died on April 21, 2009 at the age of 83.