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. A photo of a police officer in El Paso, Texas.
    Equity

    What New Research Says About Race and Police Shootings

    Two new studies have revived the long-running debate over how police respond to white criminal suspects versus African Americans.

  2. photo: subway in NYC
    Transportation

    Inside Bloomberg's $1 Trillion Infrastructure Plan

    Drawing on his time as New York City mayor, Michael Bloomberg proposes handing power and money to urban leaders as part of his Democratic presidential bid.

  3. photo: San Diego's Trolley
    Transportation

    Out of Darkness, Light Rail!

    In an era of austere federal funding for urban public transportation, light rail seemed to make sense. Did the little trains of the 1980s pull their own weight?

  4. photo: Developer James Rouse visiting Harborplace in Baltimore's Inner Harbor.
    Life

    What Happened to Baltimore’s Harborplace?

    The pioneering festival marketplace was among the most trendsetting urban attractions of the last 40 years. Now it’s looking for a new place in a changed city.

  5. Environment

    Housing Discrimination Made Summers Even Hotter

    The practice of redlining in the 1930s helps explain why poorer U.S. neighborhoods experience more extreme heat.

×