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Vivian Maier: Out of the Shadows

Vivian Maier, Untitled (New York), 1954, gelatin silver print. From Vivian Maier: Street Photographer (powerHouse Books, 2011). © Vivian Maier/Maloof Collection.

VIVIAN MAIER died on April 21, 2009, at eighty-three; she’d slipped and fallen on a patch of ice some months earlier and never quite recovered. She had spent much of her life as a governess with families in the Chicago suburbs, and one of those families arranged for her cremation and a brief obituary in the Chicago Tribune, which described her as “a free and kindred spirit who magically touched the lives of all who knew her.” By all accounts, Maier was not very warm and friendly; she was strict with her charges and kept to herself. In fact, she touched few lives in her lifetime, even fewer magically, and she died with no idea that she’d be remembered and celebrated as one of the great street photographers of the last century.

Maier, born in New York to Austrian and French immigrants, had carried a camera since she was in her early twenties traveling through the French Alps, and

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