Two years before Vivian Maier died in 2009 at age 83, 30,000 of her negatives were bought at a Chicago thrift auction by former estate agent John Maloof. He was writing a book on Chicago history. Maier had been unable to pay the rental on a storage locker. So 100,000 of her unseen negatives housed in hundreds of boxes and undeveloped films were sold. “I was wondering how I would find enough old photos to illustrate the book and tried my luck at a local junk and furniture auction house,” says Maloof, who waited two years to investigate his purchase. “However, I knew to keep them. I thought: ‘I’m resourceful. I’ll look at them later when I have more time. Fast forward two years later, that purchase had unearthed some of the finest street photography of the 20th century.”
Realising the cultural treasure trove he had discovered, Maloof tracked down the storage unit rented in Maier’s name. Before long he owned the former nanny’s sensational archive of New York and Chicago street photography from the 1950s.
“My obsession drove us to compile a library of interviews and strange stories from across the globe. We found roughly 100 people who had contact with Vivian Maier. In the film we let people speak for themselves. I hope that this story comes through honest and pure, and does more than just uncover a mysterious artist but tells a story that changed the history of photography.”
– John Maloof
A documentary on Vivian Maier by John Maloof and Charlie Siskel, Finding Vivian Maier, was nominated for an Oscar in 2015 and has won numerous other awards.