Meet Street Photographer Vivian Maier

First, my intention for this week is to brush my way into an oil painting using one of my charcoal figure sketches as a guide. It will be difficult as I have only the one sketch to work with and I have a particular setting in mind that has been inspired from a passage from The Underpainter (1997) by Jane Urquhart. Regrettably, I am reluctant to share more than this with you at the moment. It is an image that is perfectly clear in my mind’s eye with shifting tones and composition every time the painting whispers for me to begin the process to stillness on canvas. I will honour last week’s principle of waiting to be invited… but act immediately when asked. This way, with luck, the image won’t slip away like mist in the afternoon sun.

Now, allow me to introduce the most extraordinary Street Photographer Vivian Maier with the most unusual passage into notoriety. Her work was discovered in 2007 by a 26 year old, real estate agent/entrepreneur/historian – John Maloof –  after he purchased a box of her negatives at an auction for $400. According to this brief excerpt about Vivian Maier in Wikipedia:

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.

This video provides an excellent overview…

Also, here are the Vivian Maier blog and the Vivian Maier Photography website.  I am trusting that you may be as intrigued and inspired by her work as I am. Enjoy!

A new photograph “Tomorrow’s Dawn” seems like the most fitting image to share this Monday.

(image may be purchased here.)

Sprout question: What creative treasure might you have tucked away for future discovery?

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From Mayne Island, British Columbia, Canada