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Mystery Negatives Reveal Stunning Street Photography of Vivian Maier

Historical hobbyist John Maloof’s discovery in 2007 proves that you never know what hidden treasures undeveloped negatives possess. At a local auction, Maloof purchased an entire box filled with negatives for $380, having no idea what they would reveal. What he discovered was the work of a previously-unknown, prolific street photographer from the 50’s and 60’s by the name of Vivian Maier.

As Maloof developed the negatives, he realized that the work went beyond simple street photos taken during the 1950’s and 1960’s. Through her images, Vivian Maier preserved the everyday experiences of the people she encountered and she had the creative ability to perceive and capture the soul of the time. Among the negatives were shots of celebrities including Audrey Hepburn and Kirk Douglas.

vivian maier kirk douglas
Kirk Douglas in Chicago, IL. October 13, 1960. Image courtesy of


Employed as a nanny, the images showed that she explored beyond the picturesque residential neighbors where she worked to shoot all the diversity that existed in and around New York City and the other locations she visited during her lifetime. Long before the word “selfie” existed, Maier took self-portraits of her own reflection in shop windows and car mirrors and shot several photographs of her own shadow, all of which portray her dedication to her art.

Vivian Maier self portrait
Vivian Maier self portrait, 1961. Image courtesy of

By the time John Maloof learned the name of the mysterious street photographer, he was saddened to discover that she passed away at the age of 83 in 2009 from a head injury she suffered when falling on ice. The world lost a legendary street photographer when Maier died, but her legacy endures as her unveiled work created an instant buzz in the art world. Exhibitions in New York, London, Oslo, Hamburg, and Los Angeles earned worldwide attention from the media and John Maloof created a documentary about the inspirational Vivian Maier. Learn more about this extraordinary artist and view more images at

Vivian Maier Sept. 1953, New York, NY.
NYC skyline, 1953. Image courtesy of

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