by Francesca McCaffery
John Maloof and his brother were raised working at outdoor flea markets and swap meets with their father…From a very early age, John Maloof could spot a deal. When working on a book about the history of Chicago, he attended an Auction at a small auctioneer’s store, sitting quietly in the back, and bidded a mere $780 for a box containing over 25,000 negatives shot by an unknown, female photographer. A savvy veteran of these auctions, and now a real estate agent and local historian, he was looking for photos and negatives of old-time Chicago, he was hoping to get a little lucky. He ended up purchasing, for even less money, tens of thousands of more negs and rolls of film, as well as most of her rmaining personal possessions from storage, from another buyer. All of these images had been taken by a woman named Vivian Maier.
As his life and work on the Chicago book took over, Maloof ended up simply stashing away the old boxes in a closet for a long while. Dusting them off one day, hunting again for some random, still images of Chicago, he began to discover some of the most insightful, gorgeous and timely images of street photography he had ever seen. Entranced by the glorious, black and white stills, and in possession of a sophisticated artistic instinct and taste, he then set about to find out, exactly, just who this Vivian Maeir woman really was.