Vivian Maier, evidently one of America’s more insightful street photographers, has at last been discovered, more than 2 years after she died.
Ms. Maier was born in New York in 1926, lived in France, and returned to New York in 1951. Five years later, she moved to Chicago, where she worked for about 40 years as a nanny, principally for families in the North Shore suburbs. On her days off, she wandered the streets of New York and Chicago, most often with a Rolleiflex twin-lens reflex camera. Apparently, she did not share her pictures with others. Many of them, she never saw herself. She died in 2008, leaving behind hundreds of undeveloped rolls.
John Maloof, a 29-year-old Chicago real estate agent, acquired a boxful of negatives at an auction in 2007. They had been in a commercial storage locker whose contents were seized for non-payment. Maloof was looking for Chicago scenes for an illustrated history of the Portage Park neighborhood for Arcadia’s Images of America series.
He didn’t find any pictures of Portage Park. Indeed, he wasn’t exactly sure what he had found. “I didn’t know what ’street photography’ was when I purchased them,” he wrote on his Vivian Maier blog. Eventually he posted the images to the Hardcore Street Photography group on Flickr, and watched as the responses poured in.
He is now about one-tenth of the way into the task of scanning and archiving 100,000 negatives of hers in his possession, and he has yet to develop several hundred rolls of black-and-white film and about 600 color rolls. Another large collection — including 12,000 negatives and 70 homemade movies — is in the hands of Jeff Goldstein and his collaborators at Vivian Maier Photography.
Maier is currently being honored with a one-woman show, “Finding Vivian Maier,” at the Chicago Cultural Center. A documentary film, also titled “Finding Vivian Maier,” is in the works.
If you've been slow to discover this emerging phenomenon, as Gurldoggie has been, take some time simply to look at her remarkable photos.