In the 1950s, when she was in her 20s, Vivian Maier visited a photo studio run by women in Union City, N.J. She had known one of them — Jeanne Bertrand — since she was a child.
When Maier’s maternal grandmother moved to New York from France in 1901, she met a cousin of Bertrand’s. By the time Maier took Bertrand’s portrait at the studio in 1954, the older photographer had been working in the field for more than half a century. Pictured in her hands: Vivian Maier negatives (Slides 2 and 3).
This portrait and others suggest much about the artistic development of Maier, a street photographer who doesn’t appear to have made an effort to show her work before she died in 2009 at the age of 83. Not only did Maier know Bertrand, she also went more than once to meet with — and likely to learn from — her and her colleagues, who made careers using their cameras.
These insights come from Ann Marks, a retired business executive who has been researching clues about Maier’s family history. Ms. Marks has had access to Maier’s photos with the help of two of the early champions of Maier’s work, John Maloof and Jeffrey Goldstein.