Fine Art Photography Daily

Vivian Maier

I know I’m a little late to the party, but thanks to Chole Aftel’s blog, I discovered the work of Vivian Maier. It’s a fascinating story of a young woman who worked as a nanny in Chicago and spent her free time roaming the streets taking photographs. Almost sixty years later, another Chicago street photographer, John Maloof, purchased a giant lot of negatives (30-40,000) from a small auction house in Chicago. After some investigating, John discovered the photographer’s name and googled her, only to find that she had passed away three days earlier. John has created a blog of her work, in hopes of eventually publishing a book of her work. He has also found her images an inspiration for his own work, and going through these images certainly made me want to grab my Rolleiflex and hit the streets.

Self Portrait of Vivian Maier

I acquired Vivian’s negatives while at a furniture and antique auction. From what I know, the auction house acquired her belongings from her storage locker that was sold off due to delinquent payments. I didn’t know what ‘street photography’ was when I purchased them.

It took me days to look through all of her work. It inspired me to pick up photography myself. Little by little, as I progressed as a photographer, I would revisit Vivian’s negatives and I would “see” more in her work. I bought her same camera and took to the same streets soon to realize how difficult it was to make images of her caliber. I discovered the eye she had for photography through my own practice. Needless to say, I am attached to her work.

Out of the 30-40,000 negatives I have in the collection, about 10-15,000 negatives were still in rolls, undeveloped from the 1960’s-1970’s. I have been successfully developing these rolls. I still have about 600 rolls yet to develop. I must say, it’s very exciting for me. Most of her negatives that were developed in sleeves have the date and location penciled in French (she had poor penmanship).

I found her name written with pencil on a photo-lab envelope. I decided to ‘Google’ her about a year after I purchased these only to find her obituary placed the day before my search. She passed only a couple of days before my inquiry on her.

I wanted to meet her in person well before I found her obituary but, the auction house had stated she was ill, so I didn’t want to bother her. So many questions would have been answered if I had.

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