Undiscovered Talent: Vivian Maier

I want to tell you about a story that is unfolding out of Chicago, Illinois. It’s something that I am slightly obsessed with so I’ll be letting you know about any new developments. I have my Google Alert for it all set up so I don’t miss the slightest announcement. It’s been covered by a lot of places, but just in case you missed it.

Untitled, but should be called "A Rough Night Out"

In 2007, there was a 27 year old named, John Maloof, who wanted to write a book about a neighborhood in Chicago. At an auction, he buys a storage locker that contains a few old school photos of Chicago and thinks that if he goes through the negatives and rolls of undeveloped film he might find something to put in his book. As the saying goes, little did he know…

Maloof starts going through the photographs and while he doesn’t see anything that might be of interest to his book, he starts noticing how amazing the photographs are. Breath taking might be a better word. He continues sorting through the images and after a year, he finally finds a name – Vivian Maier. The only thing that Google can find is her obituary from just a few days earlier. She had slipped on some ice causing a head injury which she never recovered from. He missed her by that much.

With a name, Maloof can start putting pieces together to find out who she is and why no one has seen these amazing photographs. Vivian was born in (1926), moved to New York (1951) and eventually to Chicago (1956) where she became a nanny. Her days off were spent taking photographs on the street. Sometimes she would do audio recordings with the people she met. Vivian was a private person and never showed anyone her photos and kept to herself and her camera for the most part.

My favorite part is the woman is blocking the word "Mad" in the movie title.

The photographs are primarily from Chicago. However, she did some world travel as well. Occasionally, a pyramid with a camel would crop up. It is believed there are also photos from Italy, Beijing and somewhere in the American Southwest just to name a few places. Then there is that random photo of Salvador Dali in New York that just appears randomly.

So just how many photographs are we talking about here? The estimate is about 100,000 that Maloof has plus Jeff Goldstein (a collector) has 12,000 negatives, 700 prints, 20 Super 8 homemade movies and a handful of slides. There won’t be exact numbers for a while because not all the photos have been developed, scanned or even been looked at yet. Who knows what other random surprises could appear?

The photographs that have been developed and scanned are slowly making the rounds. First, they started on the internet as a blog by Maloof: Vivian Maier – Her Discovered Work and Vivianmaierphotography.com. There was a Flickr Discussion. Maloof and his friend, Anthony Rydzon, started a Kickstarter fund raising project to make a documentary on her life as well as publishing a book. The Chicago Cultural Center is displaying 72 of her prints which opened on January 7th and will close April 3rd of this year. After that, Russell Bowman Art Advisory (Chicago) exhibit her photographs from April 15 – June 18, 2011.

I will be visiting family in Chicago at the end of March so I think you can guess where I’ll be going. Don’t worry, I will give you a complete play-by-play of the entire experience. I’ll be going back for a friend’s wedding in May as well. I should be able to catch the second exhibit as well. I’m super excited. Cannot wait.

You have now heard the story and seen a couple of my favorite of her photos that I’ve seen so far online. Now what? I recommend going to the Kickstarter page first. It has all the links to all the media coverage including the videos from both a local Chicago station and CBS. All of them have one or two photos the others don’t have so if you are now addicted like myself, you are going to want to check them all out.

Enjoy discovering her work! I will keep you posted on any new developments. (All images are copyrighted under Maloof Collection, Ltd.)

Even he can see how great these images are
Who wears curlers to the beach?
Such a sweet image

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