Vivian Dorothy Maier (February 1, 1926 - April 21, 2009) was one of the most famous street photographers and the original creator of the “mirror selfie”. For about forty years of her life, Vivian was a nanny in Chicago, New York City and Los Angeles. During this time, she took more that 150,000 photos mostly of the people on the streets of these major cities and the architecture all around her. Her most famous body of work, however, is her elegant and flawless self portraits. Despite her name being incredibly well-known worldwide now, it was not always this way. Vivian Maier’s work was completely unknown and unpublished until 2007. Vivian failed to pay rent on the space she was renting in Chicago so many of her valuables were sent to be auctioned off. Included in all of her belongings were all of her negatives. Three different art collectors bought portions of her negatives; John Maloof, Ron Slattery, and Randy Plow. In July 2008, Slattery published some of her work, with little to no attention from audiences at all. Later on, Maloof was looking into the work trying to find more information and was able to come across Vivian's name in one of the boxes of 30,000 negatives he bought at the auction a few years prior. He searched her name and all he could find was her death certificate in the Chicago Tribune. In 2009, Maloof linked a section on his website to a Flickr account showing Maier's work and they went viral. Since then, Maier’s photographs have been the focus of huge amounts of attention and have attracted critical acclaim world-wide.
Below are some of Vivian Maier's most well-known self-portraits taken mostly with mirror and glass reflections on the streets of Chicago and New York.
Along with her exquisite self-portraits, Maier was also able to capture street life of Chicago and New York in a way like no other. Below are just some of photographs from her street series.
The first time I ever saw Vivian Maier's work, I was in an art museum in Paris, France and although there was no longer an exhibition on her work, they had a book in the gift shop that had her self portraits in it. I absolutely felt like Vivian and I were long lost friends and the universe brought us together through this one, perfect self portrait.
Since then, I have drawn so much inspiration from her work. I used to always be terrified of the idea of photographing myself. For the reason that I was scared I wouldn't know how to do it the "right way". But, even more than that, I worried that no one would want to look at pictures of me. I lacked the confidence to look myself in the eyes and capture a photograph of the person starring back at me. I was scared I would be put in a place where I would be looking at my own face and I would be so unsatisfied with how I looked that I let it hold me back from ever trying. After seeing Vivian's work, I let that all go and forced myself to try. Just once. To see how it felt. And now that I have done it once, I can never go back. The feeling of taking a photograph of a paused moment with yourself is truly unlike any other. I love taking self portraits now and I owe that to Ms. Vivian Maier.
After Vivian's work was discovered, there was a documentary made about how her work was found and all that went into making her work known. Here is a preview:
All work courteous of Vivian Maier