A street photographer’s tender, noble New York

Vivian Maier’s life and work are still being uncovered.

Born in the city in 1926, her story doesn’t sound remarkable: She lived in Europe until 1951, returning to New York City for four years, where she worked in a sweatshop before moving to Chicago.

There she spent the next 40 years as a nanny; reportedly she was homeless and broke later in life before the adult children she cared for years earlier rescued her from destitution. Intensely private, she died in 2009 at 83.

Now here’s the remarkable part. Throughout her life, she took pictures—at least 100,000 of them, the negatives of which were inside a storage locker that was auctioned off in 2007.

The new owner, amazed at his incredible find, has been working to bring attention to her art and give Maier her proper due. (Below is a self-portrait.)

“Most of Maier’s photos are black and white, and many feature unposed or casual shots of people caught in action—passing moments that nonetheless possess an underlying gravity and emotion,” explains a 2011 Chicago Magazine article.

Though many of her images were taken in Chicago, others document New York’s rougher edges in the 1950s—a tender collection of underdogs, not-quite-in-sync lovers, and lonely souls.

A portfolio of dozens of her New York photos can be accessed here.

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13 Responses to “A street photographer’s tender, noble New York”

  1. aspicco Says:

    wow wow wow wow
    what a selection of pix
    what a photographer
    went to “her” web page… stunning photos…
    just wow

  2. mykola (mick) dementiuk Says:

    Yes, what a beautiful find! Awesome! I believe that in some forgotten closet in NYC are incredible pictures just laying there until someone finds them, there has to be.

  3. NYCDreamin Says:

    Stunning collection…thanks for the link!

  4. S.S. Says:

    Thanks. An amazing oeuvre.

  5. Lynn Says:

    I’m looking forward to the Exhibit of her work here in NY this December. Thank you for sharing this.

  6. Tom B Says:

    Great, great picture find. Since I was born in 1950, it really takes me back to my childhood. Most of those children are my age. It was such an innocent time that we will never ever have again.

  7. wildnewyork Says:

    I’m so glad to see this response! In case anyone wants to view many of these photos up close in person, they are on display right now at the Hearst Tower on 57th Street and 8th Avenue. Definitely worth the subway (or PATH, or car) ride.


  8. Force Tube Avenue Says:

    Thanks for the links. This was NY just before my time.

    A minor cavil; I’d take down your comment about the “only self-portrait” as the website has a portfolio of them.

    Nonetheless, thanks for the photos, and your blog.

  9. melaniemusings2 Says:

    Wonderful street photoprapher. I love her work. Thanks for the link.

  10. Goggla Says:

    Wow, what a find! Thank you for sharing.

  11. Duffy Says:

    I was born in New York City in1930 and these photos and the photographer who took them truly speak to me. What a gift, what a talent.

  12. Lynn Says:

    Unfortunately the Hearst Tower’s exhibit is not open to the public but there are 2 wonderful exhibits currently at Bard Graduate on West 86th Street – vintage hats and vintage holiday cards! The Bard Graduate School is located at 18 West 86th St.

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