Vivian Maier, Woman of Mystery

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Interview with Brett Jefferson Stott about Vivian Maier
A centrepiece of The London Street Photography Festival was an exhibition and celebration of the work of Vivian Maier. Festival Director Brett Jefferson Stott talked to IMSO about her work, highlighting some fascinating themes in the work of this talented and mysterious photographer

Vivian Maier (February 1, 1926 – April 21, 2009) worked as a Nanny in Chicago but in her spare time took street photographs – over 100, 000 of them. This remarkable body of work was only discovered by John Maloof, President of the Jefferson Park Historical Society in Chicago, when he bid on some prints and negatives from an auction house. Maloof has been developing the 20-30,000 pictures that are still in rolls, but Maier herself remains a largely mystery, revealed mainly through her photography.

The bio on the Vivian Maier website says that, “Vivian bounced between Europe and the United States before coming back to New York City in 1951. Having picked up photography just two years earlier, she would comb the streets of the Big Apple refining her artistic craft. By 1956 Vivian left the East Coast for Chicago, where she’d spend most of the rest of her life working as a caregiver. In her leisure Vivian would shoot photos that she zealously hid from the eyes of others.”

Maloof is currently working on a book and film about her. In the meantime Maier’s work can be seen at the London Photography Street Festival and it raises fascinating questions. Laura Weinberg in Time Out Chicago highlights her talent for capturing images of children, while Brett Jefferson Stott suggests her evident empathy for the less wealthy stems from her own life-experience. One also wonders whether the fact she was a creative independent woman (working full-time as a Nanny) gave her a unique perspective on a male male-dominated world, particularly in the 1950s and 1960s. What do you think?

Thanks to Brett Jefferson Stott and the Festival team

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