Thursday, January 13, 2011

Meet Vivian Maier

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The photographic works of an unknown Chicago nanny named
Vivian Maier, were discovered at an auction box among the contents of a repossessed storage locker. They were purchased in 2007 by a very lucky Chicago man named John Maloof,. The lot turned out to contain some 30,000 negatives of images by Maier. Most of her works haven't even been scanned or even seen - even she never saw many of her images since there are also thousands of black and white and color rolls of film that haven't been developed yet.

Maloof, a 29-year-old eBay entrepreneur and real estate agent, is only about one-tenth of the way into the task of scanning and archiving 100,000 negatives of hers in his possession. After finding out her name and seeing there was something special about her photos, he tracked down others who had bought items from the same storage locker to acquire their boxes as well. Maloof managed to build up his collection of Maier’s work to approximately 100,000 negatives, 3,000 prints and 2,000 rolls of film. He and a friend have taken on the monumental task of scanning and developing these. At last count, they had scanned and archived about 10,000 negatives. Via Arrested Motion

The buzz this story is receiving is unprecedented.

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What is known about Ms. Maier is that she was born in New York in 1926, lived in France (her mother was French) and returned to New York in 1951. Five years later, she moved to Chicago, where she worked for about 40 years as a nanny, principally for families in the North Shore suburbs. On her days off, she wandered the streets of New York and Chicago, most often with a Rolleiflex twin-lens reflex camera. Maier passed away a few years ago and will never know the recognition that her work is currently receiving. Via New York Times Lens Blog

Last week, Finding Vivian Maier: Chicago Street Photographer, opened at the
Chicago Cultural Center. It is the first American exhibition of photographs by Vivian Maier and it runs until Sunday, April 3rd.

"With a book by powerHouse due for release later this year, a documentary film currently in pre-production, and no doubt further exhibitions to come, all the publicity surrounding Maier’s photography could succeed in bringing distant relatives out of the woodwork. If so, then possible copyright ownership issues with her images may well have the potential for turning this engaging tale into an ongoing soap opera." Via Arrested Motion

I am hoping that the show makes its way to New York soon because I would LOVE to see these works in person. I love stories like this and we do not hear them often enough. Be sure to check out John Maloof's site dedicated to Vivian Maier where he provides a lot of insight into Maier herself (he has made it his mission to learn more about her) and where he is constantly sharing her work and information on the process.

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Information and all images via Vivian Maier, New York Times Lens Blog and Arrested Motion.

Arrested Motion will apparently be following this story very closely and I honestly cannot wait to hear more. This has the entire photography community very, very excited.

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