John Maloof, Chicago area real estate agent and aspiring book author, wandered into an auction house one day a few years ago and made a discovery that changed his life. That discovery was the brilliant work of Vivian Maier. If you’ve never heard of Vivian… that’s ok. Very few have.
John had the good fortune of being high bidder on the contents of a storage box that was surrendered due to owner delinquency. That owner, Ms. Maier, was a nanny who worked with Chicago families during the 1950s through 1990s, caring for their young children. Her attire and demeanor were strictly Mary Poppins and now that Mr. Maloof is attempting to fill in the many large gaps of her personal narrative, he’s learned that she is only survived by few memories of the families she served and the over 100,000 film negatives that were being stored within the confines of the won storage crates.
And what fine serendipity!
Hoping to secure old city landscape photographs for a book about Chicago that he was penning, Mr. Maloof began having the rolls of film developed and eventually discovered that Ms. Maier was a productive photographer, capturing anonymous portraits, tender moments, awkward poses, and varied scenes of life on the frenetic streets of a major city.
Slowly and methodically, Mr. Maloof is bringing the work of Ms. Maier to life. And although he was unfamiliar, at first, with street photography, he is now beginning to understand what kind of treasure he’s discovered. Museum curators, professional fine art photographers and art historians have begun pouring through the works and a consensus view is emerging: Ms. Maier is likely one of the greatest street photographers of all time! It’s a distinction she won’t know as Mr. Maloof’s research ultimately led him to her obituary; she passed away shorty before his fateful auction purchase.
Mr. Maloof is also posting images on his site as well as preparing a book containing her photographs. For more information, click here.
Posted by Rey