Vivian Maier’s Found Photographs

Vivian Maier's Photo of a Man in a Car

Vivian Maier's photo of a child

Alex Kotlowitz tells this story beautifully:

“In the winter of 2007, John Maloof, a 26-year-old realtor who was co-writing a book on his Portage Park neighborhood of Chicago, stumbled upon a box of negatives at an auction house. He paid $400, hoping it might hold some vintage photos of his neighborhood. He stuffed the box in a closet. There the images sat for a couple of months, until he had time to scan a few into his computer. There were no photos of Portage Park, but they were captivating images, and it became clear they belonged to a single photographer. ‘Little by little I realized how good they were,’ he told me. He learned the auction house had sold more boxes of negatives, and so he sought out the buyers to purchase those, as well. In the end, he collected more than 100,000 negatives, including a few thousand rolls of film. In one of the boxes, he eventually found an envelope with the name Vivian Maier scrawled on it. He googled her name and found a Chicago Tribune obituary. She had died a few days earlier. She was 83.”

Vivian Maier worked as a nanny for most of her life, in Chicago and in New York. I imagine that many of these “street” photographs were taken while she was out and about with the children in her charge, Rolleiflex around her neck. You can see her reflection in the photograph below.

According the jacket copy of an upcoming collection of Maier’s photographs, the photographer – nanny “lost possession of her art when her storage locker was sold off for non-payment.”

Tens of thousands of Maier’s negatives have yet to be scanned, and a harvest of art and of life awaits us.

Vivian Maier reflection

1 Comment»

  I wonder … « basil.CA wrote @

[…] whether the work of Vivian Maier would ever have been found had she not lost it. Has this ever happened to any other […]


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