The Renaissance of Street Photography, Courtesy Vivian Maier

[Welcome to the renaissance of Street Photography, courtesy Vivian Dorothea Maier.]


2007: In a seemingly endless quest to find 220 vintage photos of Chicago’s northwest side, John Maloof took a gamble at a local auction on a box of some negatives from 60s Chicago for a book called Portage Park. The images proved totally useless for the project. Instead, they basically changed Maloof’s life forever.

When Portage Park was finally finished, he resurfaced the box. Immediately captivated by the images of historic significance, Maloof was inspired to take to the streets with his point-and-shoot to document the city in the style of these negatives.

And so it began. John Maloof the Historian was en route to John Maloof the Photographer.

2008: A year later and John’s point-and-shoot had been replaced with a Rolleiflex, his attic had been transformed into a darkroom for developing, and his mission had become to reconstruct an archive of Vivian Maier’s work – the woman responsible for the images from the auction. Over about a year, he has gathered a fairly full collection, consisting of 100,000 to 150,000 negatives, more than 3,000 prints, hundreds of rolls of film, home movies, audio tape interviews, and various other items.

And so it continued. John Maloof the Historian turned Photographer turned Director.

2013: The project ultimately led to his documentary film, Finding Vivian Maier. The story ‘shuttles from New York to France to Chicago as it traces the life story of the late Vivian Maier, a career nanny whose previously unknown cache of 100,000 photographs has earned her a posthumous reputation as one of America’s most accomplished and insightful street photographers.’

2014: The film premiered last month at the 31st Miami International Film Festival, and Mr. Maloof shared with us a little bit about his film from the red carpet at the Regal South Beach Theatre.

We asked him about the composition, the collection, and recurring subjects; here’s what he had to say:

Well, it’s different than somebody who comes out of an art school. She captured what she thought was interesting, without major emphasis on crafted composition.

[She captured] People who weren’t so well off, people on the margins of society. She took pictures of the wealthy – the well-to-do people. So those are the two subjects I think are prominent. Also, women’s fashion, wealthy women. Amazing fur coats or minks and all that stuff.

And of course, we had to find out what he’d be up to while in town:

Finding Vivian Maier is now playing at select locations.

So go check it out, obviously.

About the Author: Elsie Sing'

Elsie is originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; her writing has appeared in a few university publications, under tables and on the sides of trains. She likes taking Polaroid pictures and planning rooftop picnics.