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.