January 21, 2011

The young man who discovered the photographer Vivian Maier.



The young man, John Maloof, keeps this blog dedicated to Maier.

26 comments:

paul a'barge said...

who?

Coketown said...

Those photographs are astonishing! Holy cow.

I also wish I could make money off another person's lifetime of work, like Maloof is doing. Films, books, lectures. Quite a profitable "dedication!" All copyrighted Maloof Collection, LTD. RIP Vivian.

peter hoh said...

Some of these photos took my breath away. Just stunning.

Ann Althouse said...

"I also wish I could make money off another person's lifetime of work, like Maloof is doing."

I wonder what he was doing before he stumbled into the amazing discovery, which is also a heavy burden on him. Normally, one has more choice in what to do in life. I'm quite interested in his story, as much as hers.

Did Maier have any heirs who might make a copyright claim?

Ann Althouse said...

@Peter Thanks for sending me the link.

Coketown said...

Ann, I think he's doing the same thing as the guy who runs PostSecret: Making a good living under the pretense of selfless service to the world. Which is fine. He deserves all the money he can get for not only discovering but presenting to the world this lady's work. It's stunning stuff and a real gift to the world. And at least he seems to have the technical knowledge to scan and archive her work. I shudder to think if someone like me found those negatives!

peter hoh said...

I think this is called risk and reward, Coketown.

You wouldn't be complaining if he bought Apple stock when it first came out, would you? And yet this guy is adding a lot of value to the stuff he bought.

He bought -- legitimately purchased -- a tub of her negatives at an auction. He realized the value of her work, and persuaded others to sell the negatives they had purchased.

He is putting in a lot of work. I don't think he's ripping anyone off. And he's not getting his money for nothin'.

JAL said...

Amazing photographs.

Intriguing story.

Irene said...

The blog brings back many memories of Chicago in trhe 1950s.

Coketown said...

Hi Peter! Read my comments. I applauded the guy's efforts, and think he's doing an invaluable service to the world by bringing those photographs to the public's attention. Nowhere did I criticize the fact that he made a terrific find and is profiting from it.

My only beef--indeed, partially in jest--is the self-conscious way he avoids any mention of profiting from this venture. I find that disingenuous and a little tacky, especially since it's a dead woman's estate.

But thank you for sending the link to Althouse who in turn posted it. I am enjoying the blog immensely and really hope the exhibit comes to my town soon!

peter hoh said...

I thought in the video, he acknowledged that there was the possibility that the art world would recognize these as significant, and that he was sitting on a potential gold mine.

Coketown said...

Oh. I thought he meant goldmine the way others call people like Bradbury "treasures." That is a goldmine of art, not a pecuniary goldmine. But kudos to him for taking ownership of his grave robbing. (That's a joke. Lighten up.)

peter hoh said...

Coketown, point taken. I perceived an edge to your comments that you didn't intend. In print, I don't get to hear that little inflection or see the wry smile that would have made clear your lack of malice.

Yes, we'd all like to uncover a treasure in a trash bin.

I heard one or two clues in the video and related links that suggest that Maloof's interest in the photographs came from his own work as an aspiring street photographer.

It would be like an aspiring poet uncovering the works of Emily Dickinson.

peter hoh said...

And the thing of it is, what's the affect of the young poet who finds him or herself in the position of sorting through Dickinson's work. You'd have to feel that nothing you could ever do would measure up. That could very well undo your potential.

Who knows whether Maloof would have become an artist in his own right. He's become a caretaker.

Even if, years from now, he were to develop into a prominent photographer, his work would be tied to his role in getting Maier's work recognized.

peter hoh said...

And people would always assume that he was only getting attention as an artist because he had gained attention as the one who discovered Maier's work.

Coketown said...

Here's the wry smile I should have included: >:) or >:P or this one, with a clown hat *<:-P

He should use this opportunity to display some of his own work. He can be like the Ezra Pound or Yoko Ono of photography by piggybacking on the superior work of those he discovered!

Whether he succeeds or not as a street photographer, he can at least take satisfaction in knowing he was responsible for not allowing this cache of images to be lost. I get all tingly hearing stories about, say, a lost Mozart manuscript being discovered. But to discover a whole artist and a lifetime or work--nothing measures up to that!

Randy said...

Those photographs are astonishing! Holy cow.

What Coketown said above, except add a couple more !!!'s to mine.

Thanks to Althouse for the post and special thanks to Peter for sending her the link.

What a find! "Treasure in a bathtub" indeed.

peter hoh said...

I'd love to see the first photo that made Maloof's jaw hit the floor.

Maier's self portraits are amazing.

bearing said...

Some of these photographs are mind-blowing. They strike me as just so witty in some cases, and others are just exquisitely composed -- it's like she had this perfect eye for the way elements would come together.

It's easier to take "good" photos now that digital's cheap and you can just shoot hundreds of images and throw the bad ones away. These are amazing.

I am also reminded of Dickinson.

Sixty Grit said...

Those are remarkable photographs. That woman had a gift. She was the anti-Instapundit - she could actually see and compose a photograph. That is a rare ability.

kcom said...

Snap!

victoria said...

I am speechless, the photos are breathtaking. Ann, you must go see the exhibit. I may fly back there just to see it. A heretofore undiscovered street photographer is a gift.

Suburbanbanshee said...

The video said the guy sold real estate. So it's still sales and marketing, and a lot of time looking at Chicago. :)

If he'd found a bunch of nice houses that needed fixing up and promoting, obviously he would be planning to make money off them. But the day to day work of renovation and marketing would tend to drive the actual "me get cash for house - profit!" out of the front of one's mind, I'd think. Obviously you'd want to keep an eye on that; but it would be a beginning and end of the day eye, not an in-between one.

Anyway, something providential like that is foolish to ignore. I'm sure that many doors have opened that he didn't even know existed. Good fun work in the long term often involves a lot of labor and worry on the everyday level.

Almost Ali said...

Many of her subjects seemed to be taken in an oddly curious way by the woman behind the camera. Like this one. And this one.

amba said...

She is one of the great photographers, no question. Imagine if Maloof hadn't gone to that auction!

And it doesn't matter how she would or wouldn't feel about him giving to the world -- and deservedly profiting from, for all his work -- her photographs. (She might even see him as a kind of fated heir.) I think whatever we have to give, life just wants us to give it up. It doesn't matter whether we get rewarded for it or not. We're here to make a delivery, that's all. This is true of Maier and of Maloof, just as it is true of me and Jacques, who wanted all his life for a movie to be made of his story and who died just as that was finally maybe going to become a reality (thanks to David Hunt, Freeman's husband). The point is, he made his delivery. And so did Vivian Maier.

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