Talk:Vivian Maier

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Outsider Artist[edit]

Shouldn't this article be amended to reflect that she is considered an outsider artist based purely on the discovery of her work (and its importance) at/near the end of her life? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:24, 5 January 2011 (UTC)


Maloof writes of one or more Chicago obituaries, and this WP article too talks of an obituary in the Chicago Tribune. I don't want to knock Maier or Maloof, but something seems fishy here. Why would she get an obituary, and if she did get one, where is it? -- Hoary (talk) 02:25, 15 November 2009 (UTC)

This seems to be what he was referring to. Not very substantial and clearly paid-for, rather than editorial (she died in obscurity, after all). There is something about this website here. Should we add it as a reference? The older of their obits appear to only be accessible for a fee. It would probably be better if someone could check the print Chicago Tribune for 23 April 2009 and add a reference directly to that. --Hegvald (talk) 02:41, 15 November 2009 (UTC)
I've changed it to "obituary notice", which I think gives the right idea. -- Hoary (talk) 14:06, 15 November 2009 (UTC)


When a references are used multiple times, we use the format "ref name=tag", and not multiple instances of the reference. This is described at Wikipedia:Citing sources. Green Cardamom (talk) 19:38, 26 December 2010 (UTC)

There is no "we use" about this; there are differing opinions on the use or non-use of named references. Please respect the established style of referencing per WP:CITEHOW. There have been many discussions on this, and I have no wish to have a separate debate over each and every article. --Hegvald (talk) 20:49, 26 December 2010 (UTC)
I'd be happy to discuss it with you, and look forward to working with you over the next few weeks. I'm only interested in this article, each article is its own case. Here are some issues:
  1. You never indicated what the ref style is (in the talk page, comments in the article, or edit notes). How do you expect editors to follow an atypical citation style if you don't indicate what it is? The articles edit history seems to show you have watched the article to enforce your desired style - we all hope you stay around for a long time as a Wikipedian, but that kind of watching will result in frustration and eventual abandonment of the project, your "going against the wind" or "cutting against the grain", the vast majority of Wikipedian's use named refs to combine multiple ref instances.
  2. In this post you say "This is the normal referencing system used in academic fields familiar to me." What is that academic field, and does it have any relation to this article? Or is it simply arbitrary, since you are personally comfortable with it? (see WP:OWN).
  3. When you reverted my edit, you reverted not only the citation style changes, but new content I added to the article (including 4 new references). Please be more careful when reverting, or explain why your reverting content.
  4. The citation style your using is atypical. Thus you will continually run into problems with other editors changing to the more typical style of named refs. Unless there is a compelling reason to use the atypical style (and there are some cases where atypical styles work better), why create a continual conflict for every well-meaning editor that comes across this article?
  5. The style you were using is harder to read, repetitive and bloated - it increased the article size by at least 25%.
If you want to use an atypical citation style in this article, please make a case for it, and we can open it up to the community to look at and decide which is preferable. Green Cardamom (talk) 06:39, 27 December 2010 (UTC)
I am sorry if I removed a source you added, but with this type of radical style change, it is far easier to just revert immediately and then repeat whatever useful additions there may have been.
You saw the short page I wrote, where I link to WP:CITESHORT. This is not "atypical". It is common in all the humanistic disciplines I am familiar with, such as history or art history. "Named references", or anything resembling them, are not, although I know that something like them can be found in natural science journals. The difference is, I believe, that most science papers are short (a few pages) and address a very limited set of questions, and most sources they cite are also short science paper. This has consequences for writing and citation style that makes this type of references workable.
In the humanities, many references are books or long journal articles, and side issues often need to be addressed. It is common to add explanatory content in footnotes when necessary, and to combine references into a single footnote when needed (what WP:CITEBUNDLE calls "bundling"). The answer of the wikipedian "named references" school to the first of these needs tends to be to add an additional set of explanatory footnotes, which increases the technical complexity of the text. The answer to the second seems mostly to list several footnotes after a single sentence. "Bundling" references, on the other hand, avoids that by allowing for simply combining references in a single footnote ("Smith 1999, p. 132; Jones 2001, p. 401; Miller 2004, p. 54-58; Johnson 2006, p. 2-19"). More importantly, it also allows for short explanatory content when needed ("Smith 1999, p. 132, followed by Jones 2001, p. 401, and Miller 2004, p. 54-58. See Johnson 2006, p. 2-19, for an overview of the discussion.").
Anyway, I have slept on this and decided that I don't really feel like having this discussion right now. You are right, it is frustrating. It steals energy from other things that I need to focus on in the near future. It wouldn't be so frustrating if there weren't people going about making this kind of change in the first place, against the instructions in WP:CITEHOW to keep the established style. But I will let this particular article rest for a while. Eventually, I will try to expand User:Hegvald/References (which was written for the single purpose of avoiding to get into all this detail in another discussion) into a longer essay. --Hegvald (talk) 13:36, 27 December 2010 (UTC)
For a simple article like this, the named ref citation style is easiest to maintain and looks best. When it gets more complex and longer and needs a more sophisticated citation style, it would make sense to convert over to CITESHORT. But just doing it to set an early precedent because WP:CITEHOW says "to keep the established style" doesn't really make sense. No one will argue about changing to CITESHORT later if a more complex cite style is needed. What that rule in CITEHOW is trying to avoid is sideways changes, like converting a mature article from one cite style to another based on personal ideological or aesthetic grounds. It doesn't mean you have to lock in a style as the creator of an article, there is always room for change if it's a needed improvement. Right now the article, simple and incomplete work in progress, doesn't need the complexity of CITESHORT and benefits from the maintainability of named refs. Green Cardamom (talk) 07:30, 28 December 2010 (UTC)

Just a note: I added some references and material as well. I also formatted some of the citations to include the author (necessary when available) and retrieval date for online sources (also necessary). Other than that, I don't much care about the way the citations are formatted. I've been told I have a unique way of citing things myself, so...if anyone wants to change the format, I won't complain. --Moni3 (talk) 04:44, 5 January 2011 (UTC)

I felt railroaded by Cardamon and Abductive and decided to remove it from my watchlist to avoid further irritation. I was reminded of the page this morning by a note on my talk page by User:John and noticed your nice expansion. I would still prefer to get it restored to short notes with a bibliography (list of references) at the bottom. Cardamon appears to leave the option open to change it to short notes in case of an expansion in his comment above, but I am going to leave it off my watchlist and will not contribute further to the article at this point.
There was an old DYK nomination, which I withdrew here, as too much of the article was simply based on Maloof's blog, creating a bit of a sourcing problem. With the few sources available (all saying pretty much the same thing), I didn't see any way this article could be expanded at that point. It hasn't been expanded x5 yet; maybe it never will be. --Hegvald (talk) 09:41, 7 January 2011 (UTC)
Like I said, I don't care what citation style is used as long as the cites are complete.
When the book comes out, no doubt the article will be widely expanded, but there seems to be a story a day coming out in the news about Maier, and the article could possibly expanded as the stories are released. By the time the book comes out, it will no longer need to be expanded 5x. I think the area to concentrate on now is how to describe her photography. People are saying she's perhaps another Cartier-Bresson, but she's new to critics and shiny. --Moni3 (talk) 13:02, 7 January 2011 (UTC)

Disputed facts[edit]

No surprise that with so little known about Maier that some of her life info is in dispute. The Independent says she was born in France, but both the WTTW report and Chicago Magazine place her birth place in New York.

The Independent also says she was homeless, but that could mean not living with a family. It's unclear. Chicago Magazine does not say she was homeless, and in fact mentions a small but steady income.

More I'm sure will be confusing. --Moni3 (talk) 01:14, 5 January 2011 (UTC)

John Maloof is probably the most authoritative source right now, if there's a source that he wrote or quotes for her birthplace. Green Cardamom (talk) 05:14, 5 January 2011 (UTC)
I don't disagree, but he's probably holding back on updates he's finding about her for the book to be released. Chicago Magazine did some sleuthing to find her in the 1930 census (I'm guessing it was them hunting that info down as opposed to Maloof telling them). I got the impression that her obituary was written based on the perceptions her employers had of her very private life, and documentation of her life is now coming to light little by little. Any early (2009) stories using her obituary as a source are probably inaccurate. --Moni3 (talk) 15:45, 5 January 2011 (UTC)
There is some dispute as to whether or not Mr. Maloof is the sole first finder of her photos, as well. The creator/curator of the "found photo" website Big Happy Fun House (, Ron Slattery, apparently posted six of the many photos he purchased at the same auction on his own site in 2008. Mr. Maloof disagrees, saying he found nothing online about Vivian Maier before he posted images in 2009. Mr. Slattery maintains that he only wants acknowledgement that he did recognize her talent and post images first, according to discussion threads on his own site and also here: and here: FJOz519 (talk) 01:42, 11 January 2011 (UTC)
Whatever the history of the discovery is, the article needs to focus on Vivian Maier. There is some potential for an off-Wikipedia dispute about who gets credit for the discovery, made worse by the fact that Maloof's $400 purchase may be worth millions. Wikipedia should not be used in a dispute should one arise, and unless it makes major news, the article should not focus on it. --Moni3 (talk) 21:54, 11 January 2011 (UTC)
The story of Maier's discovery is very much a part of Vivian's story, and there does seem to be a legitimate claim by Slattery for being the first to publish her work a year or two before Maloof, which is significant. I'm not sure his claim to being the one to "discover" her is legit because it appears a whole bunch of people bought the negs at the auction at the same time. It was really Maloof who was the first to recognize and act on her true value by bringing her attention to the wider art world - Slattery just posted a few pics on a blog and didn't really do much beyond that, in fact he seemed to hand it off to Maloof to further develop. I think Slattery should be included in the story, even if it makes it more complicated and less romantic, at least a mention of his name as the first to publish in 2007. I agree we should wait until this makes news in a reliable source, and not try to engage in WP:OR by using primary source documents or blog posts like those linked above. Green Cardamom (talk) 23:34, 11 January 2011 (UTC)
The focus of the article, per the title, should be on Maier. Right now the information about the discovery of Maier's images is just about equal "Wow these pics are great and she was a nanny and never showed the pics to anyone!" and "This dude paid $400 for a gold mine and probably found one of the best photographers of the 20th century". Unless the article's going to be moved or forked to Discovery of Vivian Maier's photography, the editors watching this article need to be vigilant about making sure the focus of the article is about Maier's life and work. Maloof, Slattery, and Goldstein--the collector who has about 12,000 of her images--are background players here. --Moni3 (talk) 00:25, 12 January 2011 (UTC)
I don't think anyone said Maloof, Slattery, and Goldstein are the primary focus of the article other than yourself. Green Cardamom (talk) 02:19, 12 January 2011 (UTC)
I said that? When? --Moni3 (talk) 02:47, 12 January 2011 (UTC)
You said "Unless the article's going to be moved or forked to Discovery of Vivian Maier's photography, the editors watching this article need to be vigilant about making sure the focus of the article is about Maier's life and work." No one is talking about making the focus of the article anything but Maier, no one said that except you, but it's still possible to discuss the history of her discovery, including the date when her works were first publicly published(!) and by who. It would be a strange article that didn't do that. We're really talking about one or two sentences here, it's not that big a deal. In any case we don't even have a reliable source for it yet, so there's no reason to even discuss it at this point because we don't know what information there is to work with. Green Cardamom (talk) 02:57, 12 January 2011 (UTC)
I said we should consider making the focus of the article about anything but Maier?
Gosh, now it's fun. Ok and anyhoo, it doesn't seem like the editors on the talk page are discussing much, and because it's fun, your statement We're really talking about one or two sentences here is -- has this even been brought up until now? We haven't discussed how many sentences and where. No one is talking about making the article anything; there is no common understanding. That's what happens on Wikipedia. Articles go galloping off in one direction or another. I'm sure you know this. We cannot anticipate how much press Maier's show is going to get and how that's going to shape the article. So, I agree that reliable sources will determine what is put into the article, but this conversation is indicative of my concerns. We don't have a common understanding of what should be covered. If you consider it a waste of time to discuss it then, I'm not terribly surprised. That pretty much happens on Wikipedia too. --Moni3 (talk) 03:21, 12 January 2011 (UTC)
Moni, you brought up this strawman concern that the articles focus would be changed, when no one has proposed doing anything that would change the focus of the article. Simply discussing who found Maier's photographs won't change the focus of the article, so I'm not sure why you brought it up, other than a "what-if" concern that the article could turn into a battleground of egos between Maloof & Slattery (or the friends/supporters of those two), which does happen often on Wikipedia, and so your trying to head that possibility off by being strict about keeping the focus on Maier -- great, but we still need to show integrity and the fact is Slatter appears to be the first to ever publish her works, and once that becomes part of the reliable-source-record, it should be reflected in the article. I'm not sure why you might possibly be resistant to that idea.. Green Cardamom (talk) 04:19, 12 January 2011 (UTC)
Heh. Strawman. Good times. I should learn some day that editors are simply unable to communicate in any language here on Wikipedia. You, me, everyone else. One language, infinite possibilities to misunderstand and speak past one another. --Moni3 (talk) 18:02, 14 January 2011 (UTC)
You who've discussed her work in this section seem interested in her work. All to the good. Yet there is ample reason to think that interest in photographs here can be dwarfed by "human interest" concerns. Just look at all the kerfuffle (in the articles themselves and in their talk pages) over such photographs as V-J Day in Times Square and Lunch atop a Skyscraper. (And this is even before we get to the "in popular culture" trivia.) I see nothing wrong with calmly discussing what to do if/when this article is pushed toward a "human interest" story before any such push is made. As for claims that anyone discovered Maier's work (in any meaningful way) before Maloof did, they certainly have their place in the article if they are written up in the kind of sources that WP takes seriously. -- Hoary (talk) 13:35, 15 January 2011 (UTC)

Copyright expired on most of her works?[edit]

According to this page, works created before January 1, 1978 but not published before December 31, 2002 are now in public domain. This video by WTTW shows that most of the photographs were taken around the 60's in Chicago, which would certainly place them before 1978.

I propose that the works are marked as being in Public Domain, especially her auto-portraits which allow to clearly assess the date of creation. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:58, 14 January 2011 (UTC)

From what I read elsewhere Findlaw is not entirely correct on that point. According to WP:PD#Unpublished works the standard U.S. rules apply to works created before 1978. If works are unpublished between 1978 to 2002 the copyright term is 70 years p.m.a. which for Maier expires in 2079 or if the works were published between 1978 and 2002 they will be copyright until the end of 2047. Either way you have some time to wait. If you want to get other experienced copyright editors' views on this matter you can also post on the media copyright questions page. ww2censor (talk) 21:56, 14 January 2011 (UTC)
I'm afraid that Cornell supports that. :/ And here is the actual law: Duration of copyright: Works created but not published or copyrighted before January 1, 1978. "Copyright in a work created before January 1, 1978, but not theretofore in the public domain or copyrighted, subsists from January 1, 1978, and endures for the term provided by section 302. In no case, however, shall the term of copyright in such a work expire before December 31, 2002; and, if the work is published on or before December 31, 2002, the term of copyright shall not expire before December 31, 2047." It seems as though there is some confusion in the "In no case..." text. Section 302 clearly provides for "life of the author and 70 years after the author's death." If, say, she had died in 1929 with her work unpublished, even though the 70 years p.m.a. allowance would put the content in public domain in January 2000, it would not be PD prior to 2002. And if you, the heir of that unpublished work, published it in 2001, the content would not be free until January 1, 2048, after the expiration of protection. --Moonriddengirl (talk) 23:05, 14 January 2011 (UTC)
Yeah, you're probably right. The photographs are now 'orphan works' and thus are a grey area in copyright law. (talk) 00:00, 15 January 2011 (UTC)
FWIW, I've written Findlaw with the relevant law. We'll see if they take drive-by criticism seriously. :) --Moonriddengirl (talk) 13:44, 15 January 2011 (UTC)

Comments Deleted From Body of Main Entry[edit]

Added March 6, 2011. Deleted March 6, 2011 Reason for Deletion: see comments below.

Though it is agreed that she was probably completely self-trained, she did own a collection of photography guide books and monographs, which undoubtedly gave her ideas and inspiration. Maier’s is a unique style that hints of influences from Henri Cartier-Bresson Weegee, Diane Arbus, Robert Frank and Gary Winogrand. Maier is celebrated for her photographs of people, and her unique vision of the human condition expressed therein. Her subjects were, with no particular preference: men, women and children. Some of her subjects she knew, for instance some of the children for whom she cared, and some were strangers she encountered on the street. There are some rare instances, when Maier would depart from what is her forte, as many photographers do, and embark on negligible distractions, photographing architecture, still lifes and nature. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Tipscommissar (talkcontribs) 19:46, 6 March 2011 (UTC)

None given=not cited? This isn't cited, which was made clear in the edit summary. It needs to be. "Though it is agreed" is poor writing. Who asserts this? Name an authority and cite it. It's difficult to say that Maier is celebrated when she was just recently discovered to have taken these images. Who is celebrating her? Who is praising her photography? --Moni3 (talk) 19:50, 6 March 2011 (UTC)
So the entire block of text is wiped out. Right. You edit with quite a broad brush. Would anyone not agree, for instance, that her work hints of influence of Henri Cartier-Bresson. It is important to understand that though she was not an art school graduate, that she was aware of modern artists, studied them and thus enjoyed their influence. But perhaps your passion is editing and not photography.
It's not up to me, you, or any other editor here to compare or value Maier's work. Wikipedia only reflects what reliable sources say. Find sources that discuss Maier's work in relation to other famous photographers and cite them. --Moni3 (talk) 12:56, 7 March 2011 (UTC)

March 2011[edit]

Look here, as the author of my comments in this "discussion", I'd like at very least the basic right to remove my own comments. It's bad enough to be deleted, and then admonished by a hobbyist "editor", but I'd at least like to claim my own right to delete my own comment in this "discussion" . You call yourself an editor, but you don't edit, you just hack and scold. I'd think of an editor as a surgeon who fixes, betters or cures what maladies are there, but perhaps I should think of you as an executioner. On top of that, your behavior is at best OCD and pointless, and at worst smug, bullying and creepy. Go ahead and do whatever you want henceforth, I refuse to participate in this game; I have better and bigger things to tend to. Read and delete if you want, follow up with what you want, I won't be back. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Tipscommissar (talkcontribs)

I realize how frustrating Wikipedia can be, but the basic guidelines in place were created for a reason. It might seem like bullying or obsession, but there are real benefits to following the guidelines. For example, the guidelines on editing comments in WP:REDACT and WP:TPO serve to make talk pages useful for the purpose of improving articles. It is unfair to delete or change what others have said, and deleting what you said after others have replied extensively in a thread destroys the context and the meaning. There is a note at the bottom of every edit window that says "You irrevocably agree to release your contributions under the CC-BY-SA 3.0 License and the GFDL. You agree that a hyperlink or URL is sufficient attribution under the Creative Commons license. See the Terms of Use for details." This is to remind you every time you post anything that you're making a donation to Wikipedia, and you give up certain rights when you do that.

The fundamental challenge of Wikipedia is that it is collaborative, and to make that work it demands you make an effort to understand the process. I hope at some point you are willing to do that and make more contributions. --Dbratland (talk) 18:25, 20 March 2011 (UTC)

Independent sourcing for the numbers, please[edit]

The article now says that Maloof possesses so many prints and negatives (according to Maloof), and that Goldstein possesses so many (according to Goldstein). This isn't good enough. Such claims need disinterested sources. -- Hoary (talk) 04:23, 4 January 2012 (UTC)

Question on copyrights[edit]

(Moved good faith question by IP from article space to talk space:)

A major question regarding the copyrights to Meier's work remains unclear.

Since there's no evidence that she transferred copyright to anyone before her death and there appears to be no heir to her estate, can we assume that all Vivian Meier's photography is now in the public domain? -- 2013-04-25T00:07:24‎


I'd like to know why a portrait of her holding a camera in her hands, aimed at the camera taking the image, is labeled as a self-portrait. Did she have another set up with a self-time? I couldn't find the image or its description at the source given. --Pawyilee (talk) 09:13, 26 July 2013 (UTC)

It's almost certainly a reflection, although you're right that the linked website offers no detailed information about it. --McGeddon (talk) 09:19, 26 July 2013 (UTC)
Such reflection self-portraits, often seemingly un-rehearsed and non-posed, seem quite a common theme in her work (from the very limited sample I (we) have seen so far). Martinevans123 (talk) 11:32, 26 July 2013 (UTC)
I think you're right. Compare the somewhat fuzzy image of her Rollei with this detailed image. Then return to regularly scheduled arguments. --Pawyilee (talk) 14:40, 26 July 2013 (UTC)
Ironically, of course, she is self-posed, as she wants us to see her, like most of her subjects, just "caught in the nmiddle of some ordinary activity". (That's assuming she actually intended anyone else to ever see her work - another irony). But rarely do we get such a good main image as this, whether fuzzy or not. And one that shows the artist naturally at work. Martinevans123 (talk) 15:26, 26 July 2013 (UTC)

Maier's working practice as nanny and street photographer[edit]

I think the documentary film, Finding Vivian Maier, contains useful information about how Maier reconciled her role as a nanny in suburban Chicago with her work as a street photographer. The film explains, through interviews with the grown-up children whom she cared for, that Maier habitually took young children with her while photographing rough area of Chicago. One of her former charges explains how he was startled to find himself in a stockyard, with dead sheep in the gutter. This was very unconventional behaviour for a nanny working in suburban Chicago in the 1950s and 1960s, and I would argue this gives insight into the unusual life style and photographic practice of Maier, helping to explain how she accomplished her photographic work. What do others think? Mick gold (talk) 17:12, 1 July 2014 (UTC)

I wholly agree that this is vital in an understanding of Maier. The dead sheep are just an example, but a particularly startling and vivid one. Martinevans123 (talk) 17:32, 1 July 2014 (UTC)
"This was very unconventional behaviour for a nanny working in suburban Chicago" - You're judging her by her day job, was she not a photographer, with a day job as a nanny? Was it unusual for a photographer to go to such places? And what is the insight that it shows? With all due respect, I don't want to hear you argue that it shows insight, we should be able to quote noted critics telling us what this insight is. I would rather we were talking about her photography, how her photography is noteworthy, rather than the noteworthiness of a nanny being in the vicinity of dead sheep. -Lopifalko (talk)
How many noted photographers worked full-time as a nanny? Criticising the mention of dead sheep is really missing the point here. Martinevans123 (talk) 21:27, 1 July 2014 (UTC)
Lopifalko, you write: "was she not a photographer, with a day job as a nanny?". That is our perspective in 2014. In the 1960s and 70s, when she accomplished her work, no-one knew she was a photographer. Even the families she worked for thought she was an eccentric nanny. It seems she was so private that the scale of her photographic work was not understood by anyone. Information in this documentary helps us to understand how much she achieved in her circumstances. Mick gold (talk) 05:11, 2 July 2014 (UTC)
I am aware of the story (my first edit of this article was in February 2011). When I say "was she not a photographer, with a day job as a nanny?" I mean in retrospect, and I mean in her own mind, she was potentially predominantly a photographer. My interest is in seeing this article not get carried away with the romance of the story and to instead remain objective. Dead sheep was just an example, I could say the same for "run-down areas of Chicago". -Lopifalko (talk)
I agree that the quality of the photographs should not be overshadowed by what you term "the romance of the story". My aim, when I began to contribute to VM article, was to make section on "Photography" longer than section on "Discovery and recognition". Mick gold (talk) 08:16, 2 July 2014 (UTC)

New (?) information pertinent to copyright and disposition of Maier's photographic works[edit]

I had never heard of Maier until I noticed today's New York Times article: ; which appears to give cause for editing this Wikipedia article. Perhaps "only" regarding copyright/disposition of images, or perhaps also as regarding details of Maier's life. My thanks to those who have worked on this Wiki article so far. (talk) 14:18, 6 September 2014 (UTC)

I had also spotted this (before seeing your talk page note). This legal case has now also been reported in The Independent and on BBC Radio 4's Today programme (10 September), so I agree that it is a significant development that should be included. I've inserted a small paragraph citing NYT and Indie and not going into too much detail. Obviously, this case may take several years to resolve, so the para may need updating as more information comes forward. Libby norman (talk) 08:46, 10 September 2014 (UTC)