The Lost & Found Photographs of Vivian Maier

March 24th, 2010 in Archive by 17 Comments

Along with the stories we’re telling on the radio, there are stories that must be seen to be believed. This one came to us when we put out an online call for stories and suggestions.

In the course of this project we’ll be featuring the lives of women who are under the radar, hidden, and unknown. Women who broke new ground, who went it alone, who worked anonymously, who put something of beauty into the world. Here’s a woman we just discovered, thanks to photographer, Sandra Wong Geroux who lives in Chicago. She sent us this blog post, written by John Maloof about the little-known photographer Vivan Maier who lived and worked in Chicago in the 1950s and 60s. From John’s post:

I acquired Vivian’s negatives while at a furniture and antique auction. From what I know, the auction house acquired her belongings from her storage locker that was sold off due to delinquent payments. I didn’t know what ‘street photography’ was when I purchased them.

It took me days to look through all of her work. It inspired me to pick up photography myself. Little by little, as I progressed as a photographer, I would revisit Vivian’s negatives and I would “see” more in her work. I bought her same camera and took to the same streets soon to realize 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. [Read the entire post and take a look at photographs of Vivian Maier here].

When we were in Chicago for the Third Coast Filmless Festival, we interviewed John Maloof about Vivian Maier’s life and photography and how he came to acquire her negatives.

John is working with publisher PowerHouse Books on a book of Vivian’s work expected to be released in the first half of 2011. And a feature length documentary film is currently in production on John and Vivian’s story.

John Maloof, Davia and Nikki (photo by Brian Kuhlmann)

Vivian Maier Self Portrait

Nikki as Vivian (photo by Brian Kuhlmann)

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my heart is pounding with delight as I’m just learning of this talented photographer.
being a great fan of Diane Arbus for so long, it’s exciting and refreshing to catch a new icon of that genre of ‘street photography’ to add to my visual world. thank you for covering this.

joey brite


This is an incredible story that further cements the wonder and magic of photography!

Drew Carolan


[...] Maier, recently discovered street photographer [Kottke] Vivian Maier follow up [Metafilter] The Lost and Found Photographs of Vivian Maier [The Kitchen Sisters on NPR] Vivian Maier Tribute, Part IV: The Interview [MIR Appraisal Services] Finding Vivian Maier – [...]

[...] NPR’s Kitchen Sisters (USA) | The Lost & Found Photographs of Vivian Maier [...]

I’m a photographer myself, and this woman, who I’ve just learned of tonight, is clearly a major talent. I’m so glad that John Maloof is finding a way to give her the recognition she deserves. Some artists just don’t want all the fuss that comes with fame. I’m sorry that Ms. Maier’s life seems that it was so difficult near the end, but thrilled to see her work come to light now. If you haven’t gone to Maloof’s blog, it is a treasure, even if only a small fraction of the photographer’s work.

Anita Holladay


Wonderful talent! I too am a Diane Arbus fan and thought of her first when seeing Vivian Maier’s work. Although now feel Vivian out shines Diane. It’ll be years before most of her work makes it back to the streets. They even could have a show every year for the next ten years and never once have the same print shown twice. Amazing story, amazing talent.

Bill Thompson


I’m amazed at the emotional impact the images have on me. These pictures needed to be found. What a treasure.

Maurine Starkey


A friend just led me to John Maloof’s odyssey through the discovered work of Vivian Maier. What a champion of the arts Mr. Maloof is. He deserves the thanks and support of all for whom photography as art has meaning. There should be a grant to help him process and share this important collection. I don’t know much about the grant application process, but an institution such as the National Endowment for the Arts comes to mind. Someone who knows more about this should come to his aid.

Dan forer


These are telling snapshots of a time and place but I think few are inspired in such a way as to make them interesting in themselves as photographs. Pictures taken on the run of the down and out and of unhappy moments in ordinary lives are not necessarily works of art. In fact, I suspect that these were simply a documentation of her own withdrawn life, proof of her having been there and seen these people. I see nothing else to read in them, which is rather sad. It’s good that they were saved, for Maier’s sake. Her effort was not in vain. I just hope that more is not made of them than is necessary by academic scrutiny.

Margaret Reardon


the lens of her camera was the eye of her soul



Woa! What a find! I got chills down my spine when I read John Maloof’s blog post and saw some of Vivian’s photographs. I can’t wait to learn and see more of this mysterious woman’s amazing work.



Anyone who takes pictures for a hobby, especially candid photos of people, knows how many shots you take before you get a keeper. It becomes a learned skill and a goal each time you pick up your camera. It’s not easy, especially with film, when each shot is unseen until later when it is too late to do another. Great photos take great dedication, an eye for details. Vivian had the skill and an eye we could only wish for. She was a gift to us all in a wonderful artistic way.

Roger Lang


Vivian Maier may have had a brother, according to census reports. More information is available at

Jim Leonhirth


An exhibition of 45 of Vivian Maier photographs, from the Jeffrey Goldstein Collection of her work,
is currently on view in Los Angeles at the Stephen Cohen Gallery through November 12, 2011. A catalogue is available.

Sometimes great talent walks among us totally and deliberately unnoticed .
lt seems to me that she knew of her talent but being the private person she obviously was , fame and notoriety were not her style. I believe her abundance of self portraits and her reading of so many famous photographers books would indicate that she was aware of her gift.
l just hope she is now smiling down on this place and is enjoying the recognition she so rightfully deserves .

Casey Stratton


I think Mr Maloof deserves no less credit than Miss Myers. His appreciation of her work has made it possible for us all to access these powerful expressions of life as we know/knew it. Her personal desire for privacy is in no way compromised by encouraging wide exposure of her work. She appears to be pretty pragmatic about life and the passage of time. She has documented the here and now and gone on her way. I suspect she, unlike us, didn’t think of her work as an extension of herself and would not feel our appreciation was an intrusion. In fact I wouldn’t be surprised if she might not have sat back with great pleasure and enjoyed her work, framed and displayed, with the same delight she experienced when taking them. Thank you, Mr. Maloof, the torch was passed to the right person.

lynne marsh


What a treasure. What a woman. To think Vivian went beyond stereotypes of her era. Truly a courageous driven woman

Luis Villalobos


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