At a recent antique and furniture auction in Chicago which included *stuff* from storage lockers with delinquent payments, John Maloof paid $300 for about 30,000 negatives stored in sleeves with the date and location penciled in French, but by an unknown photographer.
Negatives in these times of digital cameras? And all that money for who knows what junk, and by an unknown photographer? I’m sure you thought, “What an idiot to waste his money!”
But after looking at the first sleeve of negatives, John Maloof knew without a doubt, that he had the work of a talented photographer in his hands, and it didn’t take long to learn the photographer was a female, because there were so many self portraits, but it took some time to discover her name – Vivian Maier – and after many hours of research he still knows very little about her
John Maloof said:
When I found her name written with pencil on a photo-lab envelope, about a year after I purchased the negatives, I decided to ‘Google’ her, only to find her obituary placed the day before my search. She’d passed away only a couple of days before.
Vivian Maier 1926-2009, worked as a nanny in Chicago in the 1950’s-1960’s and on on Sundays, her day off, went out into the Chicago streets with her camera. At Central Camera, the plus one-hundred-year-old camera shop in Chicago where Vivian purchased her film, they commented that she was a “keep your distance from me” type of person.
This YouTube documentary from Chicago Tonight, (a Chicago PBS show), introduces us to both John Maloof and Vivian Maier, and is well worth watching.
John Maloof who has started a blog on Vivian Maier, now owns about 95% of her photos.
Out of the more than 100,000 negatives I have in the collection, about twenty to thirty thousand were still in rolls, undeveloped from the 1960’s-1970’s.
If you’ve been following this blog for a while you’ll know how much I love photography, and Vivian Maier’s photos are so hauntingly beautiful, they literally took my breath away.
Here below is a YouTube slide show of her photos, I hope you’ll watch it, I’m sure you’ll agree with me that Vivian Maier is one of our most talented street photographers, her photos remind me of the work of Helen Levitt, who photographed New York city streets at the same time, and also died in 2009.
Many thanks to J.B for sharing the story with me ♥.