We are proud to present the first Vivian Maier solo show in Paris. Unknown in her lifetime, she leaves an outstanding body of work composed of more than 100,000 negatives and undeveloped roll films. Vivian Maier photographied tirelessly the streets of New York and Chicago in the 50s and 60s period, focusing on human beings in the city in precisely framed black and white photographs with striking personality. Various self-portraits suggest the mystery of a woman who gave her life to photography. She never showed her photographs to anyone and her recently discovered work reveals one of the most talented street photographer. Les Douches La Galerie presents a selection of prints from the John Maloof Collection in association with the Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York.
VIVIAN MAIER (1926 - 2009)
Piecing together Vivian Maier’s life can easily evoke Churchill’s famous quote about the
vast land of Tsars and commissars that lay to the east. A person who fit the stereotypical
European sensibilities of an independent liberated woman, accent and all, yet born in
New York City. Someone who was intensely guarded and private, Vivian could be
counted on to feistily preach her own very liberal worldview to anyone who cared to
listen, or didn’t. Decidedly unmaterialistic, Vivian would come to amass a group of storage
lockers stuffed to the brim with found items, art books, newspaper clippings, home films, as
well as political tchotchkes and knick-knacks.
The story of this nanny who has now wowed the world with her photography, and who
incidentally recorded some of the most interesting marvels and peculiarities of Urban
America in the second half of the twentieth century is seemingly beyond belief.
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. Taking snapshots into the late 1990′s, Maier
would leave behind a body of work comprising over 100,000 negatives. Additionally
Vivian’s passion for documenting extended to a series of homemade documentary films
and audio recordings. Interesting bits of Americana, the demolition of historic landmarks
for new development, the unseen lives of ethnics and the destitute, as well as some of
Chicago’s most cherished sites were all meticulously catalogued by Vivian Maier.
A free spirit but also a proud soul, Vivian became poor and was ultimately saved by
three of the children she had nannied earlier in her life. Fondly remembering Maier as a
second mother, they pooled together to pay for an apartment and took the best of care
for her. Unbeknownst to them, one of Vivian’s storage lockers was auctioned off due to
delinquent payments. In those storage lockers lay the massive hoard of negatives Maier
secretly stashed throughout her lifetime.
Maier’s massive body of work would come to light when in 2007 her work was discovered
at a local thrift auction house on Chicago’s Northwest Side. From there, it would eventually
impact the world over and change the life of the man who championed her work and
brought it to the public eye, John Maloof.
Currently, Vivian Maier’s body of work is being archived and cataloged for the enjoyment
of others and for future generations. John Maloof is at the core of this project after
reconstructing most of the archive, having been previously dispersed to the various buyers
attending that auction. Now, with roughly 90% of her archive reconstructed, Vivian’s work
is part of a renaissance in interest in the art of Street Photography.