Legendary Vivian Maier's first UK exhibition opens this weekend

Vivian Maier
(Image credit: Vivian Maier)

For the first time ever, the work of acclaimed photographer Vivian Maier will be exhibited in the UK. From 11 June to September 2022, a selection of her work curated by diChroma Photography will be available to view at MK Gallery in Milton Keynes in an exhibition Vivian Maier: Anthology.

Vivian Maier is one of the best-known names when it comes to street photography alongside the likes of Diane Arbus, Helen Levitt and Robert Frank. Despite her work remaining undiscovered until 2007, she is still considered one of the greatest photographers of the 20th Century and has been the inspiration for many modern street photographers. 

• Read more: Best camera for street photography

Much is unknown about Maier's mysterious and private life. We do know that she was born in the Bronx, New York, USA, to a French mother and Austrian father, but spent most of her youth in France. In 1949 she started teaching herself photography using a Kodak Brownie box-style camera and two years later she returned to New York by herself, which is when she started documenting life in the streets. 

Shooting almost entirely in black-and-white, her photography captures the relationships, interactions and expressions of people living and working in New York and Chicago. Her subjects included men, women, children, babies, birds and objects who incited her curiosity and sparked a natural response to capture the moment. From carefree children playing in the streets to derelict buildings to glamorous women to the homeless and destitute, Maier’s portfolio documented the highs and lows of everyday life.

Throughout her career, Maier also created a series of expressive self-portraits, usually casting herself in shadow or taking a photo of her reflection. As always her work was infused with wit, humor and a deep sense of understanding – which is why she developed such a cult following in 2013, after the release of the Oscar-nominated documentary, Finding Vivian Maier.

As well as being a keen photographer, Maier’s passion for documenting the day-to-day extended into Super8, 16mm film and audio recordings. When her storage locker was unearthed two years prior to her death, reels of undeveloped film were among the items that had never been seen before. In total, there were more than 150,000 images uncovered, making it not only one of the greatest but one of the most important discoveries in photographic history. 

Now for the first time, 130 carefully selected black-and-white and color photographs will be exhibited in the UK at MK Gallery in Milton Keynes. From 11 June to September, avid fans and photography enthusiasts will be able to view not only her photos but the films and audio that truly reveal the vastness of her work. Her fascination for observing and recording everyday life has made her one of the most influential photographers of her time and has cemented her place in photographic history.  

27th July 1954 (Image credit: Vivian Maier)

Undated self portrait (Image credit: Vivian Maier)

New York, 1954 (Image credit: Vivian Maier)

2nd December 1954 (Image credit: Vivian Maier)

18th September 1962 (Image credit: Vivian Maier)

Read more:

Best film cameras
Best 35mm, roll film and sheet film
The ultimate guide to street photography
22 pioneering women in photography

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Hannah Rooke
Staff Writer

Having studied Journalism and Public Relations at the University of the West of England Hannah developed a love for photography through a module on photojournalism. She specializes in Portrait, Fashion and lifestyle photography but has more recently branched out in the world of stylized product photography. For the last 3 years Hannah has worked at Wex Photo Video as a Senior Sales Assistant using her experience and knowledge of cameras to help people buy the equipment that is right for them. With 5 years experience working with studio lighting, Hannah has run many successful workshops teaching people how to use different lighting setups.