Review: Finding Vivian Maier
Finding Vivian Maier
Directors: John Maloof & Charlie Siskel
Starring: John Maloof, Mary Ellen Mark, Phil Donahue, Vivian Maier (archive footage) & Tim Roth
"The poor are too poor to die."
John Maloof is one lucky guy. When buying some items at a Chicago auction house, what he obtains turned out to be one of the greatest artistic discoveries of this century.
In the boxes he finds a treasure trove of photographs, negatives, films and much more. All this was created by Vivian Maier, a nanny and unknown artistic talent. Thousands upon thousands of photos were discovered thanks to the negatives. Not only is her work good, it's very good, rivalling anything by Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Frank and even Diane Arbus.
Maier's rich, vivid and atmospheric street photographs work great in black and white and draws the viewer in to attention. So many great photos make it hard to pick a favourite. The vintage cameras prove their worth when quality comes out like this. She loved to expose people with her camera, without them realising it. In this, she gained real moments with real people. Now the art world needs to reconsider her as a true artist.
But since Maloof had found all this, he had the compulsion to find out who this lady was. His journey involves many people who knew her. They all had different things to say. "We knew she was a photographer" and "I had no idea she took pictures", proves her absurd and obscure nature as she proved to be a bizarre women with some flaws, even in her wonderful presence around children. Being a nanny she was able to go to so many curious places and shoot so many children (some of them crying). One girl had the pleasure of going to the local slaughterhouse and witness a trampled dead sheep. Being unfazed by this, it proved that Maier could take kids anywhere, without worry.
Some nasty episodes are brought up about her flashes of abuse. But it is her eccentric character and fabulous photos which ring true and remind us that artists are remembered solely for their work. We all know she would have hated the limelight since she never exhibited her work. Yet a talk with a small camera shop in the Alps proved she was happy to have some work put on postcards. Perhaps she wasn't as difficult as people are suspecting.
This film alone is a great discovery and perhaps the best documentary of the year.
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Photograph by Vivian Maier