Discreet, secretive, but above all unmissable, Vivian Maier never ceases to fascinate. Neither her relatives nor the families who employed her as a nanny knew what was going on behind the locked door of her room, let alone what was hidden there, which would constitute a major discovery for photography: hundreds of film rolls of exceptional quality, all undeveloped.
This treasure trove was discovered by chance when American collector John Maloof acquired a batch of negatives at a 2007 auction. Nearly 120,000 of the artist’s photographs have since been catalogued. Some 142 of them are currently on display at the Musée du Luxembourg in Paris, making it the largest retrospective ever devoted to this woman, who considered herself an “amateur” photographer.
Born in New York in 1926 to an Austro-Hungarian father and a French mother, Vivian Maier took photographs every day. The street was her playground. With a Rolleiflex around her neck, she took advantage of the children’s outings to wander around Manhattan, Chicago and, when she had the opportunity, France.
The influence of childhood is everywhere in her work. Her gaze is mischievous, adventurous, even when she plants herself in front of New York’s high-society women to take their portrait, or when she captures the gestures of strangers she meets in the street. Nothing escapes her. She captures the muddle of urban life in its smallest details.
Vivian Maier’s atypical career and her sharp eye shed a different light on the history of 20th-century street photography. An absolutely dazzling light.
From September 15, 2021, through January 16, 2022
Musée du Luxembourg, Paris