I recently came across the photographic work of an ordinary nanny from Chicago – Vivian Maier. Vivian turned out to be quite a secret street photographer, even before the term existed. Sadly her work was only discovered shortly before she passed away.
An American of French and Austro-Hungarian extraction, Vivian bounced between Europe and the United States before coming back to New York City in 1951. Having picked up photography just two years earlier, she would comb the streets of the Big Apple refining her artistic craft. By 1956 Vivian left the East Coast for Chicago, where she’d spend most of the rest of her life working as a caregiver. In her leisure Vivian would shoot photos that she zealously hid from the eyes of others. She left behind a body of work comprising 100,000 negatives!
As I looked through her portfolio on the website, I couldn’t believe how much photographic riches she left behind her for everyone to enjoy. I wonder what would have happened if she was discovered earlier? Would her photography have changed her life or was she better off with just keeping it a hidden hobby? Sadly she died in semi-poverty being cared for by her former charges.