John Maloof, a photographer from Chicago recently purchased a huge lot of negatives at an auction, 30-40,000 in his words. This turned out to be the legacy of Chicago street photographer Vivian Maier, a French born war refugee who settled and recently died in Chicago.
Her belongings, including furniture, were sold because it appears that she didn’t keep up with payments for the storage facility that held her possessions. Maloof, after viewing her photos and developing some of the negatives, tried to contact her but she died just days before he started his search for her.
Vivian’s photos were taken between the 1950s and 1970s. She used a Twin Lens Reflex camera, possibly a Rolleiflex. She never exhibited during her life time or tried showing her work to any audience. Maloof could not locate any relatives and found out very little about her life. It is known that she worked as a nanny, and the staff at a camera shop in Chicago where she used to buy her film recall her manner as somewhat aloof.
Vivian’s images show street life in Chicago, she had a wonderful talent for getting amongst it all and she caught some striking moments. Some of her photos reveal a sense of humour and she had a sure instinct for dramatic and unusual situations. I really hope that Maloof will continue to add to the blog as he goes through his vast collection.
In the meanwhile, there is an ongoing discussion over at the flickr Hardcore Street Photography group about how to manage Vivian’s legacy. Using flickr Commons to turn it into a public collection is a great suggestion, and I hope that Maloof gets some help with the huge job of developing, scanning and editing the collection.