Vivian Maier was a professional nanny who worked for more than 40 years for families on Chicago’s North Shore. In her spare time she would wander the streets of Chicago and New York, photographing fragments of everyday urban life, with spontaneity, empathy and insight. Although unknown in her lifetime, her photographic corpus was discovered in 2007, consisting of more than 100,000 negatives.
Dating from 1960 to 1984, the works in the exhibition depict street scenes of Chicago and New York, as well as including a number of her enigmatic, staged self-portraits. Maier’s colour work was made during the last 30 years of her life when she began to work with a 35-millimetre camera. During this time she produced roughly 40,000 Ektachrome colour slides. Her colour work became increasingly more abstract than her earlier black and white photography, as she focused her lens on texture and pattern as well as on found objects, newspapers and graffiti. The photographs on display not only demonstrate Maier’s eye for composition, but also reveal her understanding of the subtleties of colour harmony within a frame.
Maier died at the age of 83 and left behind in excess of 150,000 photographic images – in the form of prints as well as negatives, transparencies and rolls of undeveloped film. This vast body of work might have been lost or destroyed if not for the chance acquisition by John Maloof in 2007 of cache of negatives, prints, contact sheets, and unprocessed rolls of film, which were seized from a storage locker when Maier fell behind on the rent. As a result of this acquisition, Maier’s work is now receiving international critical acclaim and has been exhibited in museums and galleries internationally since 2010. The 2013 documentary Finding Vivian Maier was nominated for an Academy Award.