Chance meeting brings obscure photographer Vivian Maier into the light and to the College of DuPage

Guest Blog Post by Frank M. Jackowiak

Vivian Maier worked as a nanny for many years for several Chicago area North Shore families. In her spare time she photographed and she photographed a lot. Capturing all sorts of things in the art of “street photography” I think before anyone really knew what exactly street photography was. Candid portraits, people holding demonstration signs, newspapers, children and adults, all sorts of things. All the while her talent was hidden – until now.

Meet Jeff Goldstein, artist, carpenter, appreciator of art and flea marketer. While having acquired a large portion of Vivian’s work using his flea market connections, he began to try and work through the collection. He has more than 12,000 negatives, 700 prints, movies, slides and audio tape, plus 218 rolls of unprocessed film with cryptic writing on the outside paper sometimes in French.

While being able to appreciate the work, the volume of it was daunting, plus what to do with the unprocessed film. While again at a flea market he began talking with friends and as it turns out one of them says, hey my brother is a photographer, maybe he can help. That person being Paul Natkin, world renowned music and entertainment photographer. ( – toured with the Rolling Stones etc. etc.) Paul says sure he can help and opens his darkroom to began the 1000 + contact sheet work of the existing negatives.

So, Paul is a longtime friend of mine and I happen to be meeting him for lunch and he starts telling me about this cool project he’s working on and sits me down at his mac to watch the Chicago Tonight video about Vivian.

Jeff Goldstein with some of the 700 prints

I watch the video and am impressed, but the video is actually about another person who has acquired some of Vivian’s work, John Maloof. He is the person who is running the current show at the Chicago Cultural Center. Paul says the person he is helping (Jeff Goldstein) is also working on a ton of projects and one them is the trying to get 218 rolls of her 40 year old black and white film processed. Great minds think alike and the light bulb came on for both of us almost saying simultaneously – How about the school ? –

So the chance meeting was that Jeff Goldstein was headed to Paul’s place that afternoon. We met and the plan was made for me to see if we could use the school’s facilities to help with the project. I was excited at the prospect and even more so after seeing some of Vivian’s work that Paul had been scanning.

Next was the call to Jeff’s – Burk and Curto who both give their blessing to the noble cause of helping Vivian Maier get some long due recognition.

I went to Jeff Goldstein’s house for a meeting to try and coordinate things and was able to see a little more of the collection.

The Rolls of Film

Jeff turned the film over to me and on the walk to my car Jeff said “ How does it feel to have the film ? “ Actually I was just thinking, ahh priceless film, maybe I won’t make the 3 stops I had planned on the way home.

The call went out to the C.O.D. photo list for help, Joanne Barsanti, Jerry Cargill, David Koch and Denise Poncher answered up and the plan was made to try and meet at the school to tackle the film on January 2nd. A few other listers including Helena Kaminski offered help as well as Gayle Stevens who offered her 120 processing equipment.

I went into the lab to the lab to mix chemicals early on New Years Eve and couldn’t resist, I wound up processing 2 rolls of 35mm.

Two rolls of Maier's 35mm film

So, for the first time ever …

The processed film

I have said it before that it is a bit surreal when you get to the point of peeling the film off the reel and seeing the images. I don’t think there is a way of explaining that feeling accurately, way cool is close though.

We ( Team Vivian ) continue to process the film and have finished about 50 rolls so far. It is a bit challenging as some rolls are fogged due to age and storage. We have adjusted development time to what we think is the best and are working toward getting contact sheets printed.

Courtesy of Jeff Goldstein, here are 3 of Vivian’s images, never seen before. Processed at the C.O.D. Lab.

Photograph by Vivian Maier

Photograph by Vivian Maier

Photograph by Vivian Maier

If you would like to check out Jeff Goldsteins web site here:

Jeff is a great guy and his prime focus is to get his portion of the collection organized and archived working toward recognition for Vivian’s art. Once I talked to him for a few minutes I could easily tell that above all, the credit goes to Vivian, he is just the facilitator which itself is also way cool.

Also, be sure to check out the show organized by John Maloof at the Chicago Cultural Center:

John’s site is here:

Chicago Magazine article here:

Chicago Sun Times article here:

If you’d like to help or have questions feel free to contact me, Frank J:


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