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Out of the dark room, into the light

November 15th, 2013
06:31 AM ET

By Lucky Gold, CNN

Imagine a world where a nanny became one of the world's great photographers – six years after her death.

Vivian Maier's self-portraits are mesmerizing, but they tell us very little about the enigmatic woman who spent the 1950's and '60's in Chicago.

Caring for children to make a living and cradling a camera to pursue her secret passion: capturing the extraordinary in ordinary people.

Vivian Maier: Self-Portraits, PowerHouse Books

She might have died as anonymously as she lived, if the thousands of undeveloped negatives she left behind weren't bought at a local auction for a few hundred dollars.

Vivian Maier: Street Photographer, PowerHouse Books

Once discovered and developed, they revealed the mother lode of street photography – unforgettable faces from the hardscrabble sidewalk.

Vivian Maier: Street Photographer, PowerHouse Books

The reluctant artist who hid behind her camera is now hailed by critics as one of the greatest photographers of the 20th century.

Vivian Maier: Self-Portraits, PowerHouse Books

A new documentary of her life and work premiered earlier this year, tracing the search for the real Vivian Maier.

But perhaps the real Vivian Maier is right in those pictures – in black and white reflections of people, places and things that most of us pass by and never notice.

Thankfully, she did – and the world is richer for it.

Vivian Maier: Street Photographer, PowerHouse Books


Filed under:  Imagine a World • Latest Episode
soundoff (38 Responses)
  1. Margaret Randall

    What a revelation!

    November 15, 2013 at 9:01 am | Reply
  2. Sallie Lynn Lane

    Fantastic ~how can we gain access to this ~ It is unfortunate that Vivian is unable to appreciate the acknowlegement of her work

    November 15, 2013 at 12:00 pm | Reply
    • Ian

      If you really want 'access' to a pair of books I suppose you'll actually have to *read* the article. Horrible, I know, but it works – try it sometime!

      November 15, 2013 at 7:25 pm | Reply
      • valesca

        You're attempt at arrogant sarcasm is unnecessary.

        November 16, 2013 at 12:51 pm |
      • Good one Ian!

        That was great Ian. Had a good chuckle

        November 17, 2013 at 12:58 am |
  3. KC

    Amazing and her pictures are very well done to say the least.

    November 15, 2013 at 9:32 pm | Reply
  4. Geoff Jones

    Typical USA, a photographer has just been discovered but is already claimed as the greatest in the 20th century. There were many other street photographers yopu now!

    November 16, 2013 at 7:30 am | Reply
  5. CJ in NM

    No, no, no...ONE of the greatest in the 20th Century. Indeed, there are many other but her work stands proudly beside Cartier-Bresson, Elliott, and others. I saw her work up close in a gallery in NYC last year and it is even better when it's not reproduced at 72 dpi. It also helps that the work (most of the originals never got past negatives) were printed very well.

    November 16, 2013 at 11:23 am | Reply
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    I miss film.

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