Man Buys 10.000 Undeveloped Negatives At a Local Auction and Discovers One of The Most Important Street Photographers of the Mid 20th Century

Imagine this : perhaps the most important street photographer of the twentieth century was a nanny who kept everything to herself. Nobody had ever seen her work and she was a complete unknown until the time of her death. For decades Vivian’s work hid in the shadows until decades later (in 2007), historical hobbyist John Maloof bought a box full of never developed negatives at a local auction for $380.

street-photography-001

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John began to develop the negatives and it didn’t take long before he realised that these were no ordinary street snapshots from the 50′s and 60′s — these pictures were a lot more then that. 

Maier’s work is particularly evocative for those who grew up in the 50′s and 60′s because she seemed to stare deep into the soul of the time and preserve the everyday experience of the people. She ventured outside the comfortable homes and picturesque residential neighborhoods of her employers to document all segments of life in and around the big city. Below we’ve rounded up some of our favorites. 

Vivian Maier Street Photography

Undated, New York, NY

August 16, 1956, Chicago, IL

Emmett Kelly as the clown figure "Weary Willie", Undated

August 1960. Chicago, IL

July 27, 1954, New York, NY

1963. Chicago, IL

Undated, Canada

1956, New York, NY

1954, New York, NY

Undated, New York, NY

July 10, 1959, Aden, Yemen

September 29, 1959. New York, NY

Undated

Fall 1953, New York, NY

1953, New York, NY

Undated, Chicago, IL

Chicago, IL

December 21, 1961. Chicago, IL

1954, New York, NY

1959, Grenoble, France

Christmas Eve 1953, East 78th Street & 3rd Avenue, New York, NY

April 7, 1960. Florida

Undated, New York, NY

Undated, New York, NY

769_march_1954

September 24, 1959, New York, NY

September 1956, New York, NY

1960s. Chicago, IL

Undated, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

July 1957. Chicago Suburb, IL

He embarked on a journey to find the legend who took these beautiful pictures and he quickly discovered her name: Vivian Maier.

self portrait vivian maier

Here is a self-portrait of Vivian Maier

Before he could find her, John discovered  her obituary in the newspaper of 2009 . She slipped on ice, suffered a head injury and never fully recovered. She was 83 years old when she passed away.

Since then, the work of this mysterious and incredibly talented woman has turned the art world upside down. The pictures gained international media attention with exhibitions in London, New York , Los Angeles , Oslo and Hamburg.

John has also made ​​a documentary about Vivian and her work  – you can check out the trailer below.

WOW, what an incredible story and what an inspiration!

If you’d like to see even more of this amazing photographer then be sure to check out her official site, where you can also found some of her color work.

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