Vivian Maier

The photographs are great; the story is even better.

It is the stuff dreams are made of. On a whim, John Maloof spent $400 on a trunk full of negatives at a local auction house. It turned out to be the priceless archive of an amateur street photographer named Vivian Maier.

Maloof wasn't a photography buff; he was researching a book about Chicago history. But he soon became one, establishing an attic darkroom to develop some of the 100,000 negatives he had managed to acquire.

Negatives from the razing of the Federal Building, 1965, by Vivian Maier. Photo via ChicagoGeek/Flickr.

The results were stunning. Maier was a brilliant photographer of urban scenes and a talented portraitist, and her archive is an unparalleled record of mid-century Chicago. So why were her negatives stashed rudely in a trunk at the auction house instead of developed and shared with the world?

That's what Maloof sets out to learn in Finding Vivian Maier, a documentary whose trailer was released in February:

Top photo: self-portrait by Vivian Maier, via Flickr user Cea.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Life

    What Emergency Child Care Looks Like During a Pandemic

    What's a parent to do when all of the schools and daycares suddenly close? For some workers in some places, options are starting to emerge.

  2. Illustration: two roommates share a couch with a Covid-19 virus.
    Coronavirus

    For Roommates Under Coronavirus Lockdown, There Are a Lot of New Rules

    Renters in apartments and houses share more than just germs with their roommates: Life under coronavirus lockdown means negotiating new social rules.

  3. photo: South Korean soldiers attempt to disinfect the sidewalks of Seoul's Gagnam district in response to the spread of COVID-19.
    Coronavirus

    Pandemics Are Also an Urban Planning Problem

    Will COVID-19 change how cities are designed? Michele Acuto of the Connected Cities Lab talks about density, urbanization and pandemic preparation.  

  4. photo: a For Rent sign in a window in San Francisco.
    Coronavirus

    Do Landlords Deserve a Coronavirus Bailout, Too?

    Some renters and homeowners are getting financial assistance during the economic disruption from the coronavirus pandemic. What about landlords?

  5. Equity

    The Problem With a Coronavirus Rent Strike

    Because of coronavirus, millions of tenants won’t be able to write rent checks. But calls for a rent holiday often ignore the longer-term economic effects.

×