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Vivian Maier :: Nanny and Brilliant Photographer.

Have you heard about Vivian Maier? I just recently read about this intriguing lady who worked as a nanny in Chicago in the 1950s until her retirement in the 1990s.

She loved taking pictures. And the art of photography. Yet she kept her passion hidden from the world.

A fellow named John Maloof, who worked in real estate, came across a large trunk of negatives at a furniture and antique auction. As he poured through the box, he knew there was something special about these negatives. Images such as these:

He started to show them to other people who recognized how special they were as well.

The photographer’s name was written on an envelope tucked away amidst the negatives— Vivian Maier.

Mr. Maloof did an online search only to find there was little-to-no information about her. Eventually he came across her obituary, which had run only a few days earlier.

Her short obituary that doesn’t sum up all of the 100,000 images this artistic nanny left behind.

Her photos were unique—sometimes quirky, sometimes artistic. She had an eye for light and for finding unique subjects. She was one of the original “Street Style” photographers (before the term was really coined), capturing candid images of many unsuspecting pedestrians. And then there were the children. Oh so many photos of children! Perhaps the children she took care of—which can’t help but make you smile.

Maloof talked to some of her former wards, who each described her as mysterious and utterly unique. The press began to describe her as the Mary Poppins of street photography.

John is helping bring Vivian’s world to others through a documentary he’s working on right now and a show at Chicago Cultural Center.

This is my favorite one (I photos of babies looking over the shoulder of their mama). It’s amazing that Vivian never showed her work to the public. And yet she lives on through these photos.

For more images, check out John Maloof’s blog with updated pictures almost every day.  You can also visit Artsy to see more of her phenomenal work. Gorgeous.

You never know where genius lies.

PS: Apologies for the smaller and inconsistent imagery size–but I didn’t want to distort the photography.

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14 Responses

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  1. Makeminemid-century says

    They are gorgeous! Breathtaking! Each one shouts a love and understanding of children.

    Just precious!

  2. Suzi says

    Incredible article Dottie – it brought tears to my eyes. Photography is very important to me too and people like Vivian inspire me to take my camera out more.

    • Dottie says

      Yay! And hopefully you will take your camera out a lot more. It’s all about the inspiration. And you rock, lady!

  3. Suzi says

    This one is such a hoot!

    I’m so hooked!

  4. Amber Liddle says

    Those are amazing! How random to find a box of negatives and find such great photos!

  5. jenny says

    gosh those photos are just incredible!!!!!

    thanks for sharing miss alix!!!!!!

  6. danielle thompson says

    these are breathtaking.. what a gift! thanks for sharing!

  7. thursday says

    These photos are simply stunning. What a magical find! I’ve seen these photos circulating around the Internet and I’m completely smitten. <3

  8. 3 ring circus • heather says

    wow these made my heart happy and bring tears to my eyes! i love how images can bring so much emotion to a person!! these are really special photographs!!!

  9. BethR says


    i had forgotten that even when i was a child, they had that bar on the swings that you slid down in front of you. the slide strikes terror in my (motherly) heart!

  10. Jenny (VintageSugarcube) says

    Dottie! LOVE this post… LOVE the pics and LOVE that she is being honored.

  11. jenny says

    i’m such a jerky! THANK YOU DOTTIE For sharing these photos, ack!!!!

    • Dottie says

      Oh are not a jerky at all–you are a love and I was actually quite chuffed cuz I love Alix! And really, we share a modernkiddo brain, so it’s all the same!

Continuing the Discussion

  1. Tweets that mention Vivian Maier :: Nanny and Brilliant Photographer. – Modern Kiddo -- linked to this post on January 11, 2011

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by ThePanicRoom, Josephina Mydreama. Josephina Mydreama said: Vivian Maier :: Nanny and Brilliant Photographer.: Have you heard about Vivian Maier? My… […]

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