Nearly Lost 1950s Street Photos of New York

If you don’t believe in fate and destiny, then you haven’t heard the story of Vivian Maier. The New York Times calls her “one of America’s more insightful street photographers,” but that could have all been different if one man, John Maloof, didn’t happen to discover Maier’s images.

Maier was born in New York in 1926, lived in France and then returned to New York in 1951 where she lived for five years. She wandered the streets and, mostly using her Rolleiflex twin-lens reflex camera, snapped pictures wherever she went. Later, Maier would move to Chicago to work as a nanny for forty years. Taking pictures into the late 1990s, Maier would leave behind a body of work comprising over 100,000 negatives. She did not share her pictures with others and many she never saw herself. In fact, she left behind hundreds of undeveloped rolls of film.

Enter John Maloof, a young eBay entrepreneur and real estate agent. In 2007, after acquiring a box full of Maier’s negatives for $400 at a local thrift auction house on Chicago’s Northwest Side almost by accident (he thought he was purchasing pictures of Chicago’s Portage Park neighborhood), the then 26-year-old would soon realize that he had stumbled upon something epic.

Now 50 years after Maier took her photos, her body of work has gone on to receive critical acclaim. Her vintage street scenes depicting life in Chicago and New York have received worldwide attention. The photos that were seemingly destined for obscurity, have been given a new lease on life.

Collected here are Maier’s photos that were all taken in New York during the 1950s. They’ll transport you back into another time and place while still making you feel connected to the subjects as a whole.

The book Vivian Maier: Street Photographer is scheduled to be released on November 17, 2011, and a feature-length documentary film about Maier and Maloof’s discovery of her work, titled Finding Vivian Maier, will debut in 2012. If you’d like to see Maier’s photos in person, there are two upcoming exhibitions you can mark on your calendar – Howard Greenberg Gallery in New York (December 15, 2011 – January 28, 2012) and Merry Karnowsky Gallery in Los Angeles (January 7 – January 28, 2012).

Vivian Maier’s website

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