The Emily Dickinson of Photography

Vivian Maier was one of the best street photographers of her time -- and completely unknown. She worked as a sweatshop laborer in New York and for forty years as a nanny in Chicago, and during that time she took some 100,000 photographs of street scenes and cityscapes. She was an intensely private person, and spent much of her free time roaming the streets with her camera, taking pictures that she didn't show to anyone -- and many of which she never even developed. In the 1970s, she cared for Phil Donahue's children. Toward the end of her life, she was homeless for a time -- until some of the children she cared for in the fifties got wind of her dire situation, and bought her an apartment. She slipped on a patch of ice and died from a head injury in 2009, at the age of eighty-three.

Her many rolls of film were discovered by a twenty-six-year-old real estate agent named John Maloof, who bought the majority of her work at auction soon thereafter, and began to publish some of her photographs online. It wasn't long before the mainstream media got wind of the story -- and art critics began to rave about Maier's work -- and now there's a book and a documentary film about Maier and her work set to come out this year.

Just look at some of her photographs -- it instantly recalls the work of street photographers like Diane Arbus and Bresson -- and in many cases, I think she surpasses them.

We'll be sure and let you know when the book and the movie come out -- I'm as anxious as anyone to see them!

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The Secret World War II History Hidden in London's Fences

In South London, the remains of the UK’s World War II history are visible in an unlikely place—one that you might pass by regularly and never take a second look at. In a significant number of housing estates, the fences around the perimeter are actually upcycled medical stretchers from the war, as the design podcast 99% Invisible reports.

During the Blitz of 1940 and 1941, the UK’s Air Raid Precautions department worked to protect civilians from the bombings. The organization built 60,000 steel stretchers to carry injured people during attacks. The metal structures were designed to be easy to disinfect in case of a gas attack, but that design ended up making them perfect for reuse after the war.

Many London housing developments at the time had to remove their fences so that the metal could be used in the war effort, and once the war was over, they were looking to replace them. The London County Council came up with a solution that would benefit everyone: They repurposed the excess stretchers that the city no longer needed into residential railings.

You can tell a stretcher railing from a regular fence because of the curves in the poles at the top and bottom of the fence. They’re hand-holds, designed to make it easier to carry it.

Unfortunately, decades of being exposed to the elements have left some of these historic artifacts in poor shape, and some housing estates have removed them due to high levels of degradation. The Stretcher Railing Society is currently working to preserve these heritage pieces of London infrastructure.

As of right now, though, there are plenty of stretchers you can still find on the streets. If you're in the London area, this handy Google map shows where you can find the historic fencing.

[h/t 99% Invisible]

Custom-Design the Ugly Christmas Sweater of Your Dreams (or Nightmares)

For those of you aspiring to be the worst dressed person at your family's holiday dinner, sells—you guessed it—ugly Christmas sweaters to seasonal revelers possessing a sense of irony. But the Michigan-based online retailer has elevated kitsch to new heights by offering a create-your-own-sweater tool on its website.

Simply visit the site's homepage, and click on the Sweater Customizer link. There, you'll be provided with a basic sweater template, which you can decorate with festive snowflakes, reindeer, and other designs in five different colors. If you're feeling really creative, you can even upload photos, logos, hand-drawn pictures, and/or text. After you approve and purchase a mock-up of the final design, you can purchase the final result (prices start at under $70). But you'd better act quickly: due to high demand, orders will take about two weeks plus shipping time to arrive.


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