The Emily Dickinson of Photography

Ransom Riggs

Vivian Maier was one of the best street photographers of her time -- and completely unknown. She worked as a sweatshop laborer in New York and for forty years as a nanny in Chicago, and during that time she took some 100,000 photographs of street scenes and cityscapes. She was an intensely private person, and spent much of her free time roaming the streets with her camera, taking pictures that she didn't show to anyone -- and many of which she never even developed. In the 1970s, she cared for Phil Donahue's children. Toward the end of her life, she was homeless for a time -- until some of the children she cared for in the fifties got wind of her dire situation, and bought her an apartment. She slipped on a patch of ice and died from a head injury in 2009, at the age of eighty-three.

Her many rolls of film were discovered by a twenty-six-year-old real estate agent named John Maloof, who bought the majority of her work at auction soon thereafter, and began to publish some of her photographs online. It wasn't long before the mainstream media got wind of the story -- and art critics began to rave about Maier's work -- and now there's a book and a documentary film about Maier and her work set to come out this year.

We'll be sure and let you know when the book and the movie come out -- I'm as anxious as anyone to see them!

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