Woman of the Week: Street Photographer Vivian Maier

Woman of the Week: Street Photographer Vivian Maier

This week’s pick: Street photographer Vivian Maier (1926-2009), who is the subject of a new exhibition, “Vivian Maier: The Color Work,” currently up at Howard Greenberg Gallery.

Chicago, 1959 © Estate of Vivian Maier, Courtesy Maloof Collection and Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

Why we selected her: The famously private artist, who worked as a professional nanny in Chicago and New York for most of her adult life, was unknown until the historian John Maloof discovered thousands of her undeveloped negatives at a Chicago auction in 2007.

Chicago, 1962 © Estate of Vivian Maier, Courtesy Maloof Collection and Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

Maier gained fame and adoration after a 2011 exhibition at the Chicago Cultural Center and a subsequent Oscar-nominated documentary film, “Finding Vivian Maier,” in 2013, put her on the map. And it’s no wonder. Her often haunting photographs — mostly shot on the streets of Chicago and New York City from the 1950s to the ’90s — are time capsules filled with deep candor and artistry, and a touch of dark humor.

Miami, FL, 1960. © Estate of Vivian Maier, Courtesy Maloof Collection and Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

The exhibition at Howard Greenberg coincides with the publication of the first-ever book devoted to Maier’s color photography, a medium the artist worked with exclusively in the last three decades of her mysterious life. That work, however, was not seen by anyone until 2016, when a years-long legal dispute between Maloof and Maier’s estate was finally settled, allowing Maloof — who owns around 90 percent of the late artist’s work — to process some 20,000 images that sat undeveloped in canisters for decades.

Location and date unknown. © Estate of Vivian Maier, Courtesy Maloof Collection and Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

The photographs might not provide satisfying biographical clues for fans who are eager to piece together a portrait of Maier’s life, but they offer a rich, nuanced layer of information for those interested in her work and evolution as an artist.

Self-Portrait, Chicago, February, 1976. © Estate of Vivian Maier, Courtesy Maloof Collection and Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

“Vivian Maier: The Color Work” is on view at Howard Greenberg Gallery through Jan. 5, 2019.

Top Image: Miami, FL, 1960. © Estate of Vivian Maier, Courtesy Maloof Collection and Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York