Last week I went to Chicago, where I grew up, to visit my grandmother for her 100th birthday. I had some free time and had seen the links posted in the last few weeks to the story of Vivian Maier, so I decided to go downtown and check out the exhibition. Although I love living in Montana, exhibitions like this are something I really miss about cities.
Vivian Maier worked for most of her life as a nanny, and much of that time she spent on the North Shore, near the suburb in which I mostly grew up. I both had nannies and was one in my twenties, and it was fascinating to me to read about the way in which working as a nanny, a job that usually provides housing, seems to have provided a platform for this remarkable woman to pursue her art. On her days off she’d go into the city and take photos, and at least once she took a year off and went around the world — there are photos from Egypt, Thailand, and Morocco in the collection. She also seems to have spent a considerable Â amount of time in New York and France (she grew up in France). The guy who bought these negatives at a foreclosure sale on a storage area is keeping a blog about them at Vivian Maier– Her Discovered Work.
The photos are quite astonishing, and when I was there, mid-day on a wintry Friday afternoon, the gallery was full. In fact, one of the guards was kvetching that he “must have had 200 people at least” asking where this one gallery was. They also have her cameras and some of her personal effects on display. It felt like one of those exhibitions that a person is going to be glad to say later that “I was there.” If you’re in the Chicago Area, it’s at the Chicago Cultural Center (also known as the old Library) until April 3 and it’s well worth stopping by (especially as admission is free).