Vivian Maier carried her Rolleiscope looped around her neck. (©Vivian Maier/Maloof Collection, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York)

The Strange Story Behind an Oscar Contender

Her pictures, once Mr. Maloof looked at them, revealed a remarkable eye. But a 2009 obituary in a Chicago newspaper, placed by children who had been in her care decades before, simply mourned a suburban nanny. Parallel stories emerged—of a solitary pioneering vision and of a fiercely private woman caring for children.

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