Since the Second World War and into the 1950s, Americans prioritised and idealised the conventional notion of family and, along with it, marriage and motherhood. Vivian Maier, born in 1926, was a young woman in the 1950s. Her photography career, and her self-portrait of 1953 particularly, is historically significant because it gives insight into her distinctive experience as a working-class woman with no husband, no children, and also no higher education. Maier’s self-portrait reflects a denial of gendered stereotypes and shines light on the invisibility of the single, childless adult and child care worker.
Before her death in 2009, Vivian Maier’s photograph was new to the press. She used art as a means of removing herself from her everyday life as a nanny. She’s taken more than 150,000 photographs all the time. In several of them, she set in place fascinating suggestions for self-portrait photography. Vivian’s portrait was seen in mirrors or window reflections as she watched Chicago’s life from the side. Looking at her shots, you see how Vivian wanted to be portrayed in real life, rather than her actual portrait.