Vivian Maier Discovery Leads to Book and Feature Film

One of the big stories in the photo world last year was when a set of glass negatives purchased for $45 at a garage sale were found to potentially be Ansel Adams photos worth an estimated $200 million. Unfortunately for the finder, the photos were most likely not Ansel’s, and ensuing lawsuits prevented him from making a huge profit from the find. Real estate agent John Maloof, on the other hand, could end up making a fortune from his discovery of previously-unknown nanny and street photographer Vivian Maier.

After discovering purchasing a box of 30,000 negatives at an auction for $400, Maloof was surprised by the quality of the work and went on to collect 100,000 images by Maier. After the story went viral, Maloof is now publishing a collection of the photographs as a 128-page photobook titled “Vivian Maier: Street Photographer” (to be released in November 2011). What’s more, he will also be producing a feature length documentary film titled “Finding Vivian Maier” after raising over $100,000 dollars for the project through Kickstarter.

The next time you’re at a garage sale and come across a box of negatives, take a long hard look at the photographs. You might be holding the photographic-equivalent of a winning lottery ticket!

P.S. Here’s an interesting interview Lomography did with John Maloof.

  • adam

    I’m pretty sure Maloof has put a lot more work into making his find into something big than what you’d have to do with a lottery ticket.

  • Graysmith

    I have conflicted feelings about all of this. One one hand, it’s amazing that this guy has put her on the map, giving us a wealth of images from another time, another place.. But now he’s in line to potentially profit a great deal off of the creations of someone he never knew, someone who never gave permission. Part of me is thankful for what he’s done, but part of me also feels like he should donate negatives to the Library of Congress because even if he literally bought the negatives, he doesn’t really have the moral, ethical ownership of them and as such they should be given to an institution who can properly care and preserve them.

  • Anonymous

    It’s a fine line isn’t? I actually prefer the route the owner took since as a free agent, he can curate Vivian’s experiences without the bureaucracy of the state. Her images absolutely do belong in a public gallery, but just as any piece can exchange hands without the consent of the actual artist – dead or alive – it’s up the owner to make the decision.

    As someone who got to see her work at the Chicago Cultural Center, I’m glad he acted the way he did or it would have been months if not years to see Vivian’s work. It’s such a shame she passed just days after Maloof tried contacting her…I’m so curious what feedback she’d have given him!

  • Ray Darr

    ¬†She’d say, “I’ve been waiting for you. What took you so long?”