I have just been pointed in the direction of this extraordinary story. Photographer John Maloof purchased some 30,000-40,000 negatives at an estate sale. They were the contents of a safe deposit locker on which rental payments were in arrears. The negs turned out to be the life's work of a woman called Vivian Maier, a Jewish refugee from France who settled in Chicago and from the 1950s into the 1970s photographed the streets of her adopted city.
Working through the mass of negatives and undeveloped roll film took a long time. Maloof found Maier's name written in pencil on a lab envelope and ran an internet search. He found an obituary had been placed just a day earlier in the Chicago Tribune.
Maloof is processing film and posting images on a blog devoted to Maier -- a labour of love to resurrect the work of a life lived in obscurity.
There's also a good piece in the Chicagoist.
There is something about this that has the melancholy beauty of an Isaac Bashevis Singer story...but with marvellous, forgotten -- and almost lost -- photographs.