Diamond in the Rough

Vivian Maier

Not every day do I stumble across something great, and this find was the simple result of clicking a link posted on Dwell magazine’s Twitter account

These are the pictures of Vivian Maier, an amateur street photographer and long-time resident of Chicago that died on April 21, 2009 at the age of 83. Maier spoke with a French accent, worked as a nanny, was very private, wore a men’s jacket and always carried a camera. But this does not even begin to tell the story of Maier, or her photographs.

Vivian Maier

You see, Vivian Maier was an extremely private person, in the very peculiar way that many artists are. From my reading about her, she seemed to completely focus on the creative aspect of her work, or possibly the act of creating this work was so private that she could not bear to show it to others much less part with it.

Vivian Maier

By the end of her life, Maier was in the care of a nursing home and her boxes of photos were stashed away in a storage locker. Since the photos were her own private secret, they were released upon the world the moment she could no longer care for them. That moment came when the storage locker payments went in arrears and the boxes of photos went to auction. John Maloof, the first to recognize that these photographs had value, won a single box at auction. It took him a couple years to figure out what he had. Not just a bunch of interesting photos, but photos that if shared with the world earlier may have been some of the most iconic of their time (and may still be).

Vivian Maier

As Maloof recognized the value of the photos, he sought to acquire more of the boxes and track down Maier herself: a Google search unearthed her obituary from just days before he began looking.  But his quest to fully discover her work and its value to the world is still in its infancy. According to Chicago Magazine, Maloof has 100,000 negatives, 2,000 rolls of film, 3,000 prints and 100+ 8mm movies made by Maier.

I highly recommend you read more:

Article in Chicago Magazine

Interview with John Maloof

John Maloof’s blog on Vivian Maier