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Wander Minnesota: Vivian Maier – There’s Still Time

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Amy Rea Amy Rea
Amy Rea is a freelance writer and author of Minnesota, Land of 10,000...
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If you haven’t yet taken in the Vivian Maier exhibit at the Mpls Photo Center, heads up—it’s still here for another week, through March 1, and it’s well worth a visit.

(credit: Jeffrey Goldstein Collection and Vivian Maier Prints)

(credit: Jeffrey Goldstein Collection and Vivian Maier Prints)

Vivian Maier is a rather mysterious figure who worked as a nanny in the Chicago area for most of her adult life in order to earn money for her passion: photography. Outside of work hours, she shot tens of thousands of photos of life in Chicago (as well as the occasional journey outside of the Chicago area), capturing all manner of street life and sides of humanity.

(credit: Jeffrey Goldstein Collection and Vivian Maier Prints)

(credit: Jeffrey Goldstein Collection and Vivian Maier Prints)

Her work was largely unknown by the time of her death in 2009. In the early years, she had space for a darkroom that allowed her to develop her own photos.

(credit: Jeffrey Goldstein Collection and Vivian Maier Prints)

(credit: Jeffrey Goldstein Collection and Vivian Maier Prints)

But as a long-time nanny position came to an end when the children grew up and left home, she was forced into a more nomadic existence, at times homeless. Her rolls of film piled up, undeveloped, in rented lockers, until they were auctioned off for nonpayment.

(credit: Jeffrey Goldstein Collection and Vivian Maier Prints)

(credit: Jeffrey Goldstein Collection and Vivian Maier Prints)

One of the buyers was John Maloof, a Chicago-area realtor and president of the Jefferson Park Historical Society. After having some of the thousands of negatives printed, he realized what a treasure trove he had and put together a blog, which was followed by a book.

(credit: Jeffrey Goldstein Collection and Vivian Maier Prints)

(credit: Jeffrey Goldstein Collection and Vivian Maier Prints)

Later, Chicago art collector Jeffrey Goldstein purchased another set of Maier negatives and developed his own collection, also leading to a book of her work.

(credit: Jeffrey Goldstein Collection and Vivian Maier Prints)

(credit: Jeffrey Goldstein Collection and Vivian Maier Prints)

That’s Vivian, taking her own photo in a window reflection, a common composition for her in the 1960s. Who was this woman? How did she become obsessed with photography, and develop her talent so prodigiously on her own? And why didn’t she try to get her work recognized and exhibited during her lifetime?

We may never know, but you can see the astonishing quality of her work at the Mpls Photo Center through March 1. Be sure to allow time to watch the continuously running video about her life and work (it takes about 50 minutes and is well worth the time). Note: The Photo Center will also have a permanent collection of her work opening later this spring.

What else is happening in our state? Be sure to check out the 10 p.m. Tuesday night WCCO newscasts, where you can learn more in the weekly segment, Finding Minnesota.

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