Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature

Vivian Maier: Portrait of an American City

When Chicago nanny Vivian Maier died in 2009, she left behind 100,000 negatives that no one but she had ever seen. They are now considered some of the best photographs of American urban life ever made.

Vivian Maier (1926 – 2009) was an American street photographer born in New York City. Although born in the U.S., she spent most of her youth in France. Maier returned to the U.S. in 1951 where she took up work as a nanny and care-giver for the rest of her life. In her leisure, she took photographs of the people and architecture of the city. Over the course of five decades, she would ultimately leave over 100,000 negatives, most of them shot in Chicago. Maier would further indulge in her passionate devotion to documenting the world around her through homemade films, recordings and collections, assembling one of the most fascinating windows into American life in the second half of the twentieth century.


 Vivian Maier, self-portrait. Photograph: © Vivian Maier/Maloof Collection
Wilmette, 1973. JEFFREY GOLDSTEIN COLLECTION/VIVIANMAIERPRINTS.COM
Suburban Chicago, 1970 JEFFREY GOLDSTEIN COLLECTION/VIVIANMAIERPRINTS.COM
Chicago, 1963 JEFFREY GOLDSTEIN COLLECTION/VIVIANMAIERPRINTS.COM
Chicago, 1961 JEFFREY GOLDSTEIN COLLECTION/VIVIANMAIERPRINTS.COM
Vivian Maier. Maloof Collection.
Photo: Vivian Maier

To watch a 12 minute film dedicated to the life and work of Vivian Maier, please click here.

Text and compilation copyright 2020 by Michael Simms.

One comment on “Vivian Maier: Portrait of an American City

  1. Diane Martin
    June 6, 2021

    Hi Michael,

    I have a poem on Vivian Maier. It ran on Women’s Voice for Change. Unfortunately, after the poem ran, I revised and improved it. It is in my second poetry book, Hue & Cry, published by MadHat Press in March 2020.

    Regards, Diane Mart

    Liked by 1 person

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