MK Gallery Presents First Vivian Maier Exhibition in the UK 

Words by
Lee Cassanell

19th July 2022

A new major exhibition of the acclaimed American photographer.


MK Gallery is presenting the first exhibition in the UK of acclaimed photographer Vivian Maier, a Chicago nanny who took hundreds of thousands of photographs of everyday life, carefully storing them during her life and posthumously becoming one of the greatest street photographers of the 20th Century.

With her Rolleiflex camera, Maier captured daily life on the streets, producing an extraordinary body of work of more than 140,000 images, as well as Super 8 and 16mm films, prints, audio tapes, and reems of undeveloped film which she shared with very few people in her lifetime.

Maier’s work came to light in 2007, just two years before her death, when her vast collection of negatives was discovered in a Chicago storage locker.

The exhibition features over 130 black and white and colour photographs, as well as film and audio which reveal the breadth of Maier’s work and her fascination for observing and recording everyday life. 

Her images, mostly from the 1950s and 1960s, are of the street life and architecture of New York and Chicago. She captured the relationships, interactions, and expressions of the masses on the street through tender and striking portraits of families, children, and women, presenting a distinctive record of urban America in the mid-20th Century. 

Maier also took many self- portraits, frequently casting herself in a shadow or reflection in a mirror. From carefree children and glamorous housewives to the homeless and destitute, Maier’s portraits capture the highs and lows of everyday life. Street scenes with shop fronts, arcades and aerial shots use shadows and reflections to capture the improvised moments that make up a community. Smouldering furniture, abandoned toys, tangles of electric cables all set the scene as families, workers and commuters go about their daily business. Being self-taught and anonymous, Maier presents a view of America that is as eclectic as it is intimate and piercing. 

Anthony Spira, Director of MK Gallery, said: 

“Vivian Maier’s story is an extraordinary one. The nanny who quietly had the skills of a world-class photographer, whose remarkable work remained virtually unknown in her lifetime is now hailed as one of the greatest recorders of American life in the 20th Century, cementing her place in the history of photography alongside Helen Levitt, Diane Arbus, and Robert Frank.”