Acclaimed photos at centre of court fight
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.