from the New Yorker Magazine, this week

Diane Arbus said, “A photograph is a secret about a secret.” With Vivian Maier, the photographer was a secret, too. (See our post about unearthing Ms. Maier here).

From the nineteen-fifties until a few years before she died, destitute, in 2009, at the age of eighty-three, Maier took at least a hundred and fifty thousand pictures and kept the results to herself. (It’s telling, perhaps, that she loved to shoot her own shadow.)

For decades, Maier supported herself as a Chicago nanny. But her real work was roaming the streets, capturing images of sublime spontaneity, wit, empathy, and compositional savvy.


A question has dogged the Maier oeuvre since a trove of her contact sheets, prints, and unprocessed film came to light at an auction of forfeited property: How did a nanny make such high art? Let’s call that both sexism and elitism. Henry Darger (also discovered posthumously), produced his magnum opus, a fifteen-thousand-page fantasy, while holding down a job as a janitor at a Chicago hospital.  They forget that Philip Glass worked as a plumber or Harrison Ford as a house painter; one has to eat.


But in truth the answer is as simple as it is profound:   Genius can be found everywhere and does not need the pedigree of art school or creative writing programs.  They are networking communities where you meet others and bond friendships — they do not magically instill creativity:  that comes from within.

The first exhibition devoted to Maier’s color work opens at Howard Greenberg Gallery on Nov. 14.

— Andrea K. Scott

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