In 1951 Maier worked in a sweatshop in New York. Five years later, in 1956, she moved to the Chicago area's North Shore, where she served primarily as a nanny and carer for the next 40 years. For her first 17 years in Chicago, Vivian worked as a nanny for two families: the Gensburgs from 1956 to 1972, and the Raymonds from 1967 to 1973.
Approximately in 1956 Maier began to take color photos, shooting on mostly Kodak Ektachrome 35mm film, using a Leica IIIc and various German SLR cameras.
In 1959 and 1960, she took a trip around the world on her own, photographing Los Angeles, Manila, Bangkok, Shanghai, Beijing, India, Syria, Egypt, and Italy.
In the 1980s Vivian would face challenge with her work. Financial stress and lack of stability would once again put her processing on hold and the color Ektachrome rolls began to pile. Sometime between the late 1990’s and the first years of the new millennium, Vivian would put down her camera and keep her belongings in storage while she tried to stay afloat. She bounced from homelessness to a small studio apartment which a family she used to work for helped to pay. With meager means, the photographs in storage became lost memories until they were sold off due to non-payment of rent in 2007. The negatives were auctioned off by the storage company to RPN Sales, who parted out the boxes in a much larger auction to several buyers including John Maloof.
Maier's photos are shown at different exhibitions around the world.
New York (Man Doing Splits in Midair)
New York (Woman Leaning on Storefront Window)
Highland Park, IL (Self-Portrait, Bedroom Mirror)
New York (Boy Shining Shoes), July 1952
Chicago (Vivian’s Shadow with Flags), July 1970
Los Angeles (Man with Hat from Behind)
New York (Man Sunning on Street)
Paris, France (Man Walking, Outdoor Street Cafe)
New York (Two Hippos)
Winnetka, IL (Interior with Telephone), April 1968
Car with Palm Tree
Cat in Car Window
Quotations: "Well, I suppose nothing is meant to last forever. We have to make room for other people. It’s a wheel. You get on, you have to go to the end. And then somebody has the same opportunity to go to the end and so on."
Vivian was a free spirit and followed her curiosities wherever they led her. She was eccentric, strong, heavily opinionated, highly intellectual, and intensely private.
Physical Characteristics: Vivian Maier wore a floppy hat, a long dress, wool coat, and men’s shoes and walked with a powerful stride.