Get Your Street Photography Inspiration from These Vivian Maier Documentaries

These two documentaries make great Vivian Maier primers and street photography inspiration.

Many decades after her prime and almost a decade after her passing, many of us are only starting to know and dig deeper into Vivian Maier’s work. The nanny photographer who primarily prowled the streets of Chicago’s North Shore took over 150,000 photographs throughout her lifetime. But her life’s work remained unknown and unpublished until more recent times. There’s a growing number of books and documentaries that try to piece together her story, among the most famous being BBC’s Imagine Vivian Maier and the 2013 film Finding Vivian Maier.

Vivian Maier was thrust into the spotlight when some Chicago-based collectors, notably John Maloof, Ron Slattery, and Randy Prow, acquired her prints and negatives in 2007. Slattery was the first to publish Maier’s photographs online in July 2008, but then received little response. A year later, Maloof followed suit by linking his blog to a selection of Maier’s snaps on Flickr. This time, it went viral, with thousands expressing curiosity and wonder about her work. With the critical acclaim came photo books, exhibits, and documentaries that continue to interest and inspire street photographers around the world.

BBC One was the first to explore the mystery of Maier and her fascinating snaps in the documentary Vivian Maier: Who Took Nanny’s Pictures. Aired on the network’s Imagine series, it tracks her story as a nanny in Chicago for 40 years in the mid-1950s, shooting the city’s scenes and residents during her free time. It also covers John Maloof’s discovery of her negatives in 2007, leading to comparisons of her work to those of Diane Arbus, Robert Frank, and Henri Cartier-Bresson.

Finding Vivian Maier followed soon after, with a Kickstarter project seeking to fund a film that “unravels the discovery of 100,000 negatives from a mysterious photographer that shocked the world of photography.” The critically-acclaimed documentary focuses on the mystery of her life and work, with “never before seen photographs, film, and interviews with people who thought they knew her.”

Find out more about BBC’s Imagine Vivian Maier on the BBC website and Finding Vivian Maier on its official website. If you’re in the US, be sure to follow this Facebook page and you can check it out on at this website

Images via BBC and Finding Vivian Maier website

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