Thursday, March 10, 2011

Vivian Maier: Hidden Treasures

Snippets of an era that were seemingly destined to be forgotten. That is until 2007 when John Maloof attended an auction in Chicago. He was working on a local history book Portage Park and whilst researching, had gone in the hopes of finding any old images that depicted Chicago. It was here that he accidentally stumbled upon on something which would change his life: the work of Vivian Maier.

Her belongings had been left in a commercial storage locker and were being sold off due to non payments. Maloof didn't realise the full extent of what he had acquired until he began to examine the negatives. As he looked through her images, he gradually developed an interest in street photography and inspired by her work he began taking photographs.

Her life story is still vague. Born to a French mother, Maier herself spent time in both France and America. She was an aloof but at times outspoken woman who who moved to Chicago circa 1956. It was here that she worked as a nanny, mainly for North Shore families for four decades. Those who knew her said she remained single and kept to herself.

In her spare time, she would walk the streets armed with a camera, the results of which were never shown to anyone. It's questionable as to if she really viewed the results herself, judging from the huge number of undeveloped film that was left behind when she died at the age of 83 in 2009. As he continues to explore her photographs, Maloof discovered that Vivian traveled the world in 1959. She visited and photographed places like Canada, Egypt, Bangkok, Thailand, Taiwan, Vietnam, France, Italy, and Indonesia. He also noted that she traveled alone which would have been unusual for a single woman to do at the time.

Out of the more than 100,000 negatives, about 20,000-30,000 shots were still in undeveloped rolls from the 1960's-1970's. These are gradually being developed and according to Maloof there's still 90,000 negatives to scan, a few hundred black and white rolls and about 600 color rolls to develop. To date he has safely archived over 3000 of her prints and scanned/archived about 10,000 negatives with the help of Anthony Rydzon.

Maloof is working to both preserve and spread awareness about her work. He regularly posts photographs on the link featured below and is working on both a book and documentary.

To see more of Vivian Maiers work and to watch her story unfold:

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