John Maloof discovered the work of Vivian Maier at a furniture and antique auction in Chicago, when he randomly decided to purchase over 100,000 of her undeveloped, medium format negatives — they had been left in an abandoned storage locker sold off due to delinquent payments, and consisted of photos she’d snapped on the street over the course of five decades.
I found her name written with pencil on a photo-lab envelope. I decided to ‘Google’ her about a year after I purchased these only to find her obituary placed the day before my search. She passed only a couple of days before my inquiry on her.
Saddened but undeterred, Maloof struggled to uncover more information about the mysterious, virtually unknown woman. He even took to the streets himself, purchasing Vivian’s same camera, and attempting to similarly capture the gritty streetlife she had once rendered so gracefully. Although his results were mixed, he emerged from the experiment with an invigorated sense of Vivian’s life:
[I realized] how difficult it was to make images of her caliber. I discovered the eye she had for photography through my own practice. Needless to say, I am attached to her work.
Now, the production company John co-founded, Toneloof, has started a Kickstarter project to fund a documentary based on this unusual and, frankly, kind of incredible discovery. For a $10 pledge, they’re offering an original spool of Vivian’s photos (already developed, natch).
The story of this discovery is amazing, Vivian’s photos even moreso. They’re incredibly curious; fascinated by the minutiae of human behavior. I especially like the frequency with which she would snap people asleep in open-top cars. Below are a collection of my favorite shots, culled from time spent perusing the archive of her work John has been maintaining since he began developing her film last year. Check them out! Support the project here.