Maier was employed as a nanny for some of the area's wealthy families. One of the families she worked for included a studio photographer. It isn't known if any of her skills or interest in photography were honed from this man.
Her work was discovered after her death, tens of thousands of negatives and undeveloped rolls of film, stowed away in a storage locker that was sold at auction after her death. John Maloof, the man who purchased some of the photographs, appreciated the beauty of the photographs and began his quest to learn more about the woman who took them and bring them into public view.
How lucky we are that the 29-year-old Maloof appreciated the beauty of the photographs and chose to share them this way. How many photos have we seen at flea markets in the dollar pile, discarded cameras and hats? How wonderful that John Maloof chose to keep the items together and share the collection as a whole. It has inspired him to practice street photography, and I admit, it has inspired me as well.
Street photography is fascinating to me. Just walking around a bustling city with a camera seems like such an adventure. I couldn't do it in the suburbs where I live. First of all, it's not busy enough. People would notice me, notice my camera, and then they would ask me why I am taking pictures.
In a city like Chicago, there are people with cameras all around. Tourists, students and street photographers. Nobody flinches much at the site of a person with a camera. The subjects are more fascinating to me, too. The beautiful architecture of old buildings and the abundance of people--so many people hurrying here and there that the photographer becomes almost invisible to the majority of the population on the street.
When Maier was taking photos, she was using a camera where she had to look down into the viewfinder to compose the picture. She didn't have the luxury of the distance that a telephoto lens supplies.
Most of the photos are black and white; there's only a few color photos in the exhibit. The subjects of her photos include both the fashionable and poorly dressed, the wealthy and the poor.
The exhibit contains a few of her personal effects, letters, camera, film & ephemera as well as some of her hats. It seems she loved hats. I've never really looked at vintage hats before but you can bet my eyes will be open at the next tag sale or flea market! Several self-portraits are also included in the exhibit. Some reflected images in windows and mirrors, some simply of her shadow. These shadow shots are really interesting, because the first thing you notice is her hat.
If you are able, do take in the exhibit. There's nothing like a gallery visit. Don't forget your camera. I didn't have mine with me and was wishing I did--the minute I walked out of the exhibit I wanted to try some street photography!
To see more of Maier's work and learn about an upcoming book and film Maloof has planned, you can check out his blog.
All Vivian's photos shared in this post are part of the Maloof Collection.