Ac­claimed pho­tos at cen­tre of court fight

Saskatoon StarPhoenix - - FRONT PAGE - JIM BRONSKILL The Cana­dian Press

OT­TAWA • The es­tate of a Chicago photographer whose vivid street scenes won her post­hu­mous plau­dits is ask­ing a Cana­dian court to pro­hibit a Toronto gallery from show­ing or sell­ing her work.

Vi­vian Maier, a nanny who qui­etly pur­sued her passion for pho­tog­ra­phy, died in ob­scu­rity eight years ago at age 83. She has since won wide ad­mi­ra­tion for her deftly com­posed vi­gnettes of life in New York and Chicago, which cap­ture strolling women in furs, care­free chil­dren and white-hat­ted sailors.

The tens of thou­sands of pho­tos she took came to pub­lic at­ten­tion af­ter be­ing dis­cov­ered in stor­age and auc­tioned off in lots to sev­eral buy­ers. Many images re­mained un­de­vel­oped.

The bulk of Maier’s work is now con­trolled by John Maloof. Maloof teamed up with pro­ducer Char­lie Siskel on the 2013 doc­u­men­tary film Find­ing Vi­vian Maier, which was nom­i­nated for an Acad­emy Award.

Jef­frey Gold­stein ac­quired much of Maier’s re­main­ing ar­chive. Three years ago he sold some 17,000 black-and­white neg­a­tives and slides to Stephen Bul­ger, who runs a Toronto gallery.

Maier did not leave a will and no le­gal heirs have been iden­ti­fied, so the pub­lic ad­min­is­tra­tor for Cook County, Ill., has power to pro­tect her es­tate’s as­sets and en­force copy­right in­ter­ests.

The ad­min­is­tra­tor is ask­ing the Fed­eral Court of Canada to pre­vent Bul­ger from re­pro­duc­ing, sell­ing or show­ing Maier’s work.

In a state­ment of claim, Maier’s es­tate says Gold­stein started pro­duc­ing unau­tho­rized prints from the Maier neg­a­tives in 2010 and sold them for well over $1,000 each, and of­ten much higher. The claim also says Gold­stein im­prop­erly used Maier images in books and pub­lic ex­hi­bi­tions.

The state­ment says Bul­ger, who has mounted Maier ex­hi­bi­tions, has prof­ited from the neg­a­tives without the es­tate’s con­sent.

The es­tate wants the court to is­sue tem­po­rary and per­ma­nent in­junc­tions pro­hibit­ing the gallery from dis­play­ing or sell­ing the images. It is also seek­ing an award of dam­ages.

Sana Hal­wani, a lawyer for the Bul­ger Gallery, said her client in­tends to file a de­fence with the court.


An un­dated and un­ti­tled self por­trait of Vi­vian Maier, the famed Amer­i­can photographer whose works are at the heart of a le­gal bat­tle in Canada.

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