The Nanny who Wowed the World With Her Photographs
Yes! A nanny became almost secretly one of the best street photographers of the 20th Century. You never heard about Susan Vivian Maier? Me neither. No wonder. Nevertheless this independent, intensely private women left over 100,000 negatives, thousands of notes and reels and reels of audio tapes featuring interviews conducted in supermarket lines… As an artist she remained unknown during her life.
This is quite remarkable. As Susan Maier was constantly documenting the world around her… but all those intimate, powerful photographs she had shoved into a box went undiscovered until 2007… only after her death two years later the genius of her exquisite photographs was recognized – catapulting that mysterious, almost aloof woman alongside legendary artists like Diane Arbus or Henri Cartier Bresson. Strangely enough her real job was being a nanny and only in her leisure time, Susan would shoot photos that she zealously hid from the eyes of others for more than 50 years! Capturing those sometimes absurd nuances of daily life with her boxy Rolleiflex camera…
Susan Vivian Maier was quite a free spirit, with a great sense of humour… almost a bit like Mary Poppins… She was eccentric, heavily opinionated and highly intelligent… she wore a floppy hat, a long dress… walking with a powerful stride in men’s black shoes…
Born 1926 in New York City, her mum was French, her dad Austrian… Susan herself spent most of her childhood in France… 1951 she returned to the U.S. where she took work as a nanny and care-giver for the rest of her life, but never gave up taking photos… compulsively chronicling what was going on in front of her curious eyes, in photos, film and sound… her photographs are able to do one magic thing: They remind us to make an effort to see things we think we might know in a different new way!
– Until May 22nd : Vivian Maier at Dunkers Kulturhus, Helsingborg, Sweden.
– From March 3rd to April 3rd: Vivian Maier at Photobastei, Zurich, Switzerland.
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Text by Claudia Antonia Merkle