In ‘Unseen Work,’ Vivian Maier’s Incredible Photographs Go On Display for Her First U.S. Retrospective



History
Photography

#exhibition
#portraits
#street photography
#Vivian Maier

Chicago, Illinois, May 16, 1957. All images © Vivian Maier, courtesy of Fotografiska New York, shared with permission

In 2007, Chicago resident John Maloof landed on the discovery of a lifetime at a thrift auction house on the city’s Northwest Side. A stunning archive of more than 100,000 negatives by photographer Vivian Maier (1926-2009) went under the hammer, marking a new chapter in the prolific documentarian’s story.

Maier’s incredible images focus on people she passed on the street around her hometown in France, then New York and Chicago, illustrating her deep love for the medium and innate ability to capture moving portraits and candid, natural interactions. Over the decades, her dedication amounted to one of the most remarkable photographic collections of the century.

Maier (previously) never exhibited her work during her lifetime, and she rarely made prints from her negatives. Having worked as a nanny for many years, she faced financial instability later in life, and her photographs ended up in storage along with other belongings, which were ultimately sold off when the rent went unpaid. “Maier took photos for herself alone and had a fierce desire for privacy; combined with a lack of stability in her career and finances, this prevented her from developing her own film,” says a statement on the archive’s website. Maloof took on the remarkable challenge of preserving and honoring Maier’s creative legacy by printing what she might have chosen to share.

The first major retrospective of the artist’s work in the U.S. is on view at Photographic New York. Unseen Work was first exhibited in 2021 at the Musée du Luxembourg in Paris, shedding light on Maier’s extensive body of work and highlighting primary themes, like portraits and everyday street scenes that reflected a changing nation. Anne Morin, the show’s curator, says, “Vivian Maier captures the often challenging realities of American life in the late 20th century with great empathy and nuance.”

Unseen Work runs through September 29 in New York City. Find more on Fotografiska’s website.

Chicago, 1960. Image © Estate of Vivian Maier, courtesy of Maloof Collection and Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

Chicago area, 1961. Image © Estate of Vivian Maier, courtesy of Maloof Collection and Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

Central Park, New York, NY, September 26, 1959

Grenoble, France, 1959

Self-Portrait, New York, NY, 1954

Untitled, 1958

#exhibition
#portraits
#street photography
#Vivian Maier

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