Researching the life of Vivian Maier, a Chicago nanny who doubled as an remarkable street photographer, has become the passion project of Ann Marks. A pair of stories for the New York Times explains how the retired business executive – who learned about the photographer only recently, through the documentary “Finding Vivian Maier” – started sleuthing to learn more. She discovered that the photographer came from an unhappy family and had a brother, Karl, who died in 1977. Marks also found a woman named Gwen Akin, who was a toddler featured in one of Maier’s photographs. “Of course I was familiar with her work,” Ms. Akin said, “but I had no clue whatsoever that there could possibly be a connection there.”
The Times series also included a look at Maier’s “family album,” including details and photos of Jeanne Bertrand, a family friend who ran a photo studio and lent great influence to the mysterious photographer’s life.
Maier, who was born in 1926, died in 2009 without ever showing her work. Negatives of her photographs were discovered in at a local thrift auction house on Chicago’s Northwest Side in 2007 and were brought to life by John Maloof, who was co-director of “Finding Vivian Maier”. Her photos have posthumously been shown in galleries at his insistence and were acquired by Jeffrey Goldstein, another champion of Maier’s work, then sold to the Stephen Bulger Gallery. A battle about the rightful heir of Maier’s prolific photography is ongoing.
Learn more about Ann Marks’ research on Vivian Maier at her website.