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19.02.2015

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The discovery of a body of life’s work being sold at foreclosure eight years ago, has turned into one of the most exciting stories in the history of 20th century photography. Within a few years, Vivian Maier (1926 - 2009) became one of America’s most important photographers, and is now considered one of the most eminent representatives of Street Photography. Even so, during her life time, no one knew of her work, much less the quality of the images. Her body of work is enormous: the general public knew nothing of the estimated 150,000 pictures, and even the photographer herself had never seen or processed a large part of them. Even today, there are still thousands of undeveloped rolls of film, with images waiting to be discovered. Maier earned her living working as a nanny in New York and, above all, Chicago. The streets of both cities were the inexhaustible sources for her pictures, which represent a fascinating documentation of everyday urban culture in the USA of the fifties to eighties.

A selection of 110 photographs is being presented at the Willy-Brandt-Haus from February 19 to April 12, 2015, in collaboration with the Spanish exhibition curator Anne Morin (Director of diChroma photography), who was able to put this collection together in cooperation with the Howard Greenberg Gallery in New York. After touring Spain, France, Belgium, Sweden and the Netherlands, the exhibition is now in Berlin and, as of mid April, will be in Aachen. In addition to 90 black and white pictures that Maier took with her Rolleiflex camera, 20 colour images will also be presented for the first time. As of the mid sixties, the photographer had also begun to take pictures in colour with her Leica IIIc. The colour images are another surprise from Maier’s sensational body of work, which always focussed on life in the streets, passers-by and situations captured by chance. She had a keen sense for the perfect moment, for framing the composition, and was able – as we can now see – to eloquently integrate colour as an aesthetic form of expression, into her photography.

Though Vivian Maier died impoverished and forgotten in Chicago in 2009, her work today is enjoying increased appreciation in the photography scene and among collectors. In Germany, since January 2011, around 80 of Maier’s pieces have been presented through the Hilaneh von Kories Gallery in collaboration with the most important executor, John Maloof, who, together with the New York gallery-owner Howard Greenberg, is promoting the successive processing of the images. In addition, intimate insight into her life and work was revealed in the documentary film Finding Vivian Maier, presented by Maloof, as well as a number of books that have now been published. This new exhibition in Berlin – not least because of the presentation of the colour pictures – offers a further glimpse into Vivian Maier's phenomenal body of work.
Mix of flowery patterns in Chicago: in typical street-photography style, Vivian Maier repeatedly discovered fascinating details or unnoticed situations, which she captured with her discrete Leica camera. Chicago, August 1975 © Vivian Maier/Maloof Collection, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York
Fascinated by the colour yellow: with the pictures of everyday life, fashion and street details, we have a glimpse into the Chicago of the seventies. Chicago, August 1976 © Vivian Maier/Maloof Collection, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York
Head in hand: Many of Vivian Maier’s picture compositions typically reveal an ironic game she played with the passers-by she photographed. Chicago, May 1979 © Vivian Maier/Maloof Collection, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York
Self reflection: Vivian Maier photographed herself time and again. In mirrors, shops windows, or as shadows. In this picture, the exterior and interior blend into one composition, with the photographer at the centre. Chicago, July 1979 © Vivian Maier/Maloof Collection, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York
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