This Nanny’s Incredible Photography Went Unseen for 50 Years, Until Now

When real estate agent John Maloof purchased boxes of repossessed goods in an auction in 2007 he had no idea he would be stumbling upon some of the most remarkable photography he’d ever seen.

What he had bought was a collection of photographs and negatives by a photographer named Vivian Maier.

Maier was by no means a well known photographer, yet her photos were absolutely spectacular.

Maloof held on to the amazing photographs for two years before seeking out Maier, only to find her obituary on Google.

She had passed away only that year.

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It was then that he realized the breathtaking work of Vivian Maier was never recognized during her lifetime.

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Fascinated by not only the photos, but the woman behind the camera, Maloof set out to discover more about this story.

He found that Maier’s photography was strictly a hobby, she had worked for 40 years as a live-in nanny in Chicago in the mid-20th century.

While many knew Maier was constantly taking photos, she never revealed her work to anybody – including the children she helped raise.

While she did travel, capturing the life of Europe, Asia, and Africa, its her work in urban America that seem the most poignant and telling.

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She took striking and often daring portraits that were ahead of their time, and exuded personality and character.

She was able to capture the heart and emotion of urban life on the streets of Chicago and NYC, while maintaining superb composition and lighting.

No writing on the photographs themselves has been found, instead the pictures speak for themselves.

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She met people from all walks of life, all with their own story.

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Their story became a part of her story, and now her story has become a part of ours.

On top of the portraits of streetwalkers, Maier explored some very unique and intricate compositions – including a few self-portraits.


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Maier faced hard times later in life, and was forced to auction off all of her possessions.

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Of course, this included her photographs, negatives and undeveloped film.

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This was the last she would ever see of her own beautiful art.

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These days, there are hundreds of hopeful Vivian Maiers taking to the streets every day.

Brandon Stanton’s Humans of New York popularized this ethnographic style of street photography – but well before he was even born, Maier had been capturing the humans of New York, and keeping them all to herself.

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After learning more about the incredible journey of Vivian Maier, Maloof decided the story needed to be shared.

He produced, wrote, directed and featured in a documentary about her life and her photography – Finding Vivienne Maier – which premiered at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival.

Now, the documentary has been nominated for Best Documentary at the Academy Awards.

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At last, Maier’s work will be recognized at the level it truly deserves.

You can learn more about Maloof’s project and see more of Maier’s work here.