The Lost Work of Vivian Maier

Posted by Scott

I’ve been hearing a lot lately about this Vivian Maier person, a street photographer operating during the 60’s and 70’s in New York and Chicago. The work is great, but the story behind the discovery of her work is equally fascinating. Maier passed away a couple years ago and a guy named John Maloof ended up purchasing around 100,000 negatives of her work — 20,000 of which were still in undeveloped rolls — from a furniture store (the store had acquired the work through a storage space non-payment auction). Maloof has been developing the work and posting at VIVIAN MAIER – HER DISCOVERED WORK.

While it’s sad way that Maier never lived to see her work appreciated on a large scale (well, who knows if she even wanted that) but I do find it pretty lucky that her work finally fell into the hands of someone with the interest and skills to bring her body of work to light.


19 Comments Leave A Comment


mg33 says:

January 17, 2011 at 2:09 pm

Someone posted this on my Facebook page a few weeks ago and I forgot to even see what it was. This looks awesome – and the exhibit is here in Chicago. I think we even have Groupon passes to the cultural center that we have not used yet.

I’ve been in Chicago for 9 years now and it’s fun to see old pictures of the city, especially the neighborhoods I’ve lived in. The real gems here are the photos of random people. I just don’t have the nerve to approach strangers and take their photos, or even to ask politely if they mind. That type of photography has always better presented itself in other countries where the tourist dynamic/curiosity of the locals lends better to photos of people. Half the time I ever want to take photos of people in the US I’m afraid I’m going to get yelled at.


patrick says:

January 17, 2011 at 2:39 pm

We were at the Chicago Cultural Center last Thursday for something unrelated, and were astounded to wander into this exhibit from the rear. It’s a really great selection of prints (even some she printed herself), and there are a few personal items as well. My wife had chatted up all of our photog friends about Vivian in recent weeks, so it was lucky to come across.

Also at the center is Louis Sullivan’s Idea, an exhibition designed by Chris Ware of Sullivan’s ornamentation.


KEVIN A says:

January 17, 2011 at 4:58 pm

Thanks MG33 and Patrick, I’m also in Chicago and would love to view these prints in person. You just made my Saturday afternoon! Thanks to Scott as well for bringing this art to our attention…


KEVIN A says:

January 17, 2011 at 5:00 pm

Thanks MG33 and Patrick, I’m also in Chicago and would love to view these prints in person. You just made my Saturday afternoon! Thanks to Scott as well for bringing this art to our attention…


MNKR says:

January 17, 2011 at 6:02 pm

Makes you wonder how many stories like this don’t have a happy ending. e.g. the bloke throws the undeveloped film away.


Lost masters.


Chris says:

January 17, 2011 at 7:56 pm

Very inspiring work. It’s very humbling to look at photos taken with film that both technically precise and artistically spot on when all I’ve ever used is digital. Not being able to see immediate feedback on a LCD with a histogram would cripple me.

Thanks for posting.


Ben Hoste says:

January 17, 2011 at 8:36 pm

I have been following this story as well and was just in Chicago this weekend and was excited to check out the exhibit at the Cultural Center (which is always free).

Side note, the Art Institute is free weekdays all month and is amazing, so you should go there to. Budget a whole day or at least half a day.

Anyway, I have to say that the show at the Cultural Center was very disappointing. The work is fantastic but the presentation was lackluster at best and a bit sloppy. I would loved to see more work from Chicago and less form New York (as the exhibit was in Chicago).

So, I definitely would recommend people check it out if they’re near the cultural center because the work is cool, but it was nowhere near as exciting as I expected.

On the other hand, something you should definitely check out in Chicago that’s photography related is the current Lori Nix show at the Catherine Edelman Gallery (it was previously in New York). It is simply amazing (and also free).

The Catherine Edelman Gallery –

Lori Nix –


Anonymous says:

January 17, 2011 at 9:07 pm

I came across the blog dedicated to Vivian’s work a few days ago which was featured on a digital photography website. I’ve never seen street photography as emotional and gripping as hers. Truly a fascinating story.


KatieB says:

January 20, 2011 at 8:55 am

At first glance, I thought that the she was operating in the 1920’s, not ’60’s and ’70’s. Fascinating, regardless.


MB says:

January 20, 2011 at 10:41 pm

Its its deeply fascinating – she clearly had a good and curious eye for street photography. As with all photography, the post process, selection, cropping etc are all a bit part of why the works are rememberable. I really think some credit should go to the editors-treasure hunters here as well, would be interesting to get an more honest view on their process.
Something like what is shared with us in e.g Looking In: Robert Frank’s The Americans. A favorite of mine in therms of street photo!