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. Groups of people look at their phones while sitting in Washington Square Park in Manhattan.
    Life

    How Socially Integrated Is Your City? Ask Twitter.

    Using geotagged tweets, researchers found four types of social connectedness in big U.S. cities, exemplified by New York, San Francisco, Detroit, and Miami.

  2. Life

    Dublin Is Changing, and Locals Hate It

    The recent loss of popular murals and local pubs is fueling a deeper angst over mass tourism, redevelopment and urban transformation in the Irish capital.

  3. a map comparing the sizes of several cities
    Maps

    The Commuting Principle That Shaped Urban History

    From ancient Rome to modern Atlanta, the shape of cities has been defined by the technologies that allow commuters to get to work in about 30 minutes.

  4. a photo of a woman on a SkyTrain car its way to the airport in Vancouver, British Columbia.
    Transportation

    In the City That Ride-Hailing Forgot, Change Is Coming

    Fears of congestion and a powerful taxi lobby have long kept ride-hailing apps out of transit-friendly Vancouver, British Columbia. That’s about to change.  

  5. Life

    American Migration Patterns Should Terrify the GOP

    Millennial movers have hastened the growth of left-leaning metros in southern red states such as Texas, Arizona, and Georgia. It could be the biggest political story of the 2020s.

×