Recognizing an Obscure Photographer’s Hidden Gifts

Friday, January 21, 2011 - 7:53 am

Recognizing an Obscure Photographer’s Hidden Gifts

We all have gifts. But sometimes those gifts remain invisible to the people around us. This was true for honed her craft as street photographer for over four decades.
Maier’s work was first discovered at an estate auction in 2007 by John Maloof, a twenty-something real estate agent and flea market maven. Eventually he realized he’d stumbled upon a trove of photographic gems. Maloof now holds 100,000 of Maier’s negatives and devotes himself full time to showcasing Maier’s work, which is now on exhibit at the Chicago History Museum through summer 2014.
Not much is known about Maier. She apparently lived a solitary, reclusive life. Her former employers remember her camera as a constant companion. When she died, she left behind hundreds of rolls of undeveloped film. Public recognition may not have mattered much to her. Now, thanks to a stranger’s gift for recognizing Maier’s talent, the rest of us get to behold the world as Vivian Meir saw it through her artful lens.

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is the cofounder of On Being¬†and currently serves as chief content officer and executive editor. He received a Peabody Award in 2007 for his work on “The Ecstatic Faith of Rumi” and garnered two Webby Awards (in 2005, and again in 2008). The Online News Association nominated his journalistic work multiple times in the general excellence and outstanding specialty journalism categories. Trent’s reported and produced stories from Turkey to rural Alabama, from Israel and the West Bank to Cambridge, England.

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