The Remarkable Vivian Maier Story [Documentary Coming Soon]

The Remarkable Vivian Maier Story [Documentary Coming Soon]

I love the story of Vivian Maier – a prolific and talented street photographer who who took over 100,000 images over her life yet showed nobody her work.

Her images were only uncovered and purchased by John Maloof in an auction after her storage locker was repossessed shortly before her death.

At the time of buying a box of Vivian’s negatives John didn’t even know the photographers name and had no idea about her talent – however as he began to examine and scan the images he realised he’d stumbled upon an amazing hidden archive of photos.

He tracked down more of her work that others had purchased in the auction and in doing so discovered Vivian’s name and began to also uncover pieces of her story. Viviane – who worked as a nanny – had taken up photography in 1949. She took most of her photos on days off, at first around New York and in Chicago where she moved in 1956.

She continued to shoot right through into the late 1990s but also shot film and recorded audio. When her work was discovered in 2007 there were over 100,000 negatives and many hundreds of rolls of unprocessed film in the collection. John began to scan and collate her work and shared some of it on a blog and later a website dedicated to the project.

In doing so the photography community around the world became aware of this previously undiscovered talent. Exhibitions around the world followed and more recently John started a Kickstarter project to create a documentary about Vivian Maier.

In the last week a Movie trailer for this full feature length documentary was released which tells more of Vivian’s story and the project.

The documentary is expected to be finished later this year and release dates will come soon. Follow more news of the release on Facebook or on the Finding Vivian Maier site.

You might also like to view this earlier video from Chicago tonight which also tells the story.

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Darren Rowse is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals. He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

Some Older Comments

  • Ian Murray July 5, 2013 11:26 pm

    Thanks Kevin for expressing exactly what I feel. How ironic that this feminist and socialist interested in the life's of the homeless has herself become a capitalist commodity.

    Maloof knew Maier's identity all along so I don't know why he lies that he only discovered it days after her death. She was in the same city. She had lost her life's work. Why didn't Maloof take up the offer of her contact details and find her to explain that her work was safe?

    These people do not own the copyright of the work. They have no right to be copying it! There seems to be a kind of mythology being developed here about this heroic person finding this lost art and dedicating his life to it. I am more suspicious of his motives. Why not co-operate with the BBC programme if the mission truly is to spread the word? It will be interesting to see how he presents himself in his forthcoming documentary.

  • Erin July 2, 2013 08:17 am

    How is there only 11 responses to this? This is a fascinating tale. John is severely lucky to stumble upon her treasure and he's rightly obsessed with her amazing talent. I know I am. She has an almost magical ability to stop time and photograph the exact moment that captures the essential soul of a person, time, event or place. Almost like that person, time, event, or place subtly senses her presence and only awakens at the very moment of her choosing. Uncanny, really. Can't wait until I have some time to watch he entire documentary. She's my new favorite genius. Thank you for introducing me to her. I'm a bit daunted by her, for sure.

  • Kevin June 23, 2013 09:03 am

    I will point out what seems obvious here. Ms Maier's brilliant artistic 'property' as well as the moral right protecting to it does not belong to those who are now printing her negatives or making films about her. Art is not 'finders keepers.' The fact that her negatives were left in a storage locker does not obviate her authorship of them -- or the right to protect that authority by her estate, however that is construed, for that matter.

    And yet, the appropriation of Vivian Maier's art illustrates some of the same themes she so well understood with her lens, and lived as a working class woman photographer.

  • Allen Conway March 31, 2013 03:54 am

    Thanks to you I've discovered a photographer! Thank you!

  • Joseph Murimi February 24, 2013 10:54 pm

    watch this to.

  • canonfan February 24, 2013 02:17 am

    I've been following the story since 2011 and her work is purely amazing stuff. She may not have wanted to share her images for a number of reasons ie: too many rolls to process, she felt they weren't good enough, she didn't want to share...who knows. I don't think John Maloof's goal is to reap the benefits of his find, I believe he just wants to share an amazing find with everyone and the fact that money may end up in his pocket is just a sidebar.

  • JacksonG February 23, 2013 10:23 am

    This is a fantastic story, can't wait for the documentary.

  • kerry February 22, 2013 10:12 am

    Unfortunately, that is how many artists get noticed. Do not begrudge the man for getting something at an auction, seeing its real worth and making it available for the world to see. I, personally, am glad I get to see these photos. So very inspirational. She did spectacular work. If he is making money from be it. We are all benefiting from her work in some form or another.

  • Sumit February 22, 2013 05:54 am

    I came across Vivian Maier's images back in late 2010 or early 2011. Found it marvellous then, going through it all over again still feels the same. I was lucky to have seen the Vivian Maier exhibition at LSPF 2011. Looking forward to the documentary.

  • Tim Roper February 22, 2013 03:24 am

    To be able to see an artist's oeuvre that was created entirely without any critical input at all is a very rare and special thing. It’s an unprecedented look into pure creativity.

    Showing your work to others involves the ego part of the brain, and the ego is a powerful force that, at the very least imposes its malicious, perverse influence, and at the very worst destroys artists’ lives.

    How and why Vivian Maier managed to avoid the ego altogether and for so long will have to remain a psychological mystery. The fact that she did should be seen as a super-human feat.

    And I feel that she would be perfectly happy, now that she’s gone, for others to be viewing, enjoying, and marveling at her work. I’m guessing that’s exactly how she planned it, and if so, it’s nothing short of a miracle that it worked out.

  • Linda Jernigan February 22, 2013 02:58 am

    The O. Winston Link Museum, in Roanoke, Va. USA, is having a showing , " Photographs of Vivian Maier".

    The link to their site is:

    This event will be held from February 22-May 6, 2013.
    O. Winston LInk Museum
    101 Shenandoah Ave.
    Roanoke, Va.USA

  • Joseph February 21, 2013 09:38 am

    I love her images and have recently done a little reading on it. She was a fascinating woman, from what little I've read. But a big part of me just feels like she didn't want to share the images, ever and certainly not herself. She was very private, by all accounts. She certainly had an eye for the extraordinary, but I don't think everything was meant to be shared with the world. Sometimes I think things need to be left undisturbed. Even if it means we won't be learning from it. This entire movement just seems like it's going against what she stood for. Now they are selling prints and getting money to make a documentary, which will make a ton of money and provide an income for this man, who I think has quit his job in order to do this and positions himself as some sort of hero.

    Vivian's images are magical. But I kind of wish I hadn't seen them. I feel a little dirty peeking into them. I won't be watching any documentary about her.