Friday, April 11, 2014

Finding Vivian Maier

Tonight I saw the documentary Finding Vivian Maier.

Part hoarder, part loaner, part voyeur, part genius—Vivian Maier was comprised of many things. Like the photos that are now making her famous, there was a raw, yet mysterious, aspect to her persona, which she guarded her whole life like a national secret.

The film chronicles how a student hoping to find historical photos for an assignment purchased a storage locker full of negatives and stumbled on a treasure trove of never-before-seen brilliant images. All of the pictures were taken (and hidden) by Vivian, a nanny who bounced from family to family all of her adult life.

As the student dug deeper and deeper into her past, he discovered a tragic soul—described as everything from eccentric to angry. What was so remarkable about uncovering the photos was that none of the people who knew her realized that they existed. Sure, they saw her with her camera around her neck, and the children remember being photographed and filmed, but no one had any idea her catalog boasted thousands of museum-quality shots. Some which Vivian herself never had the privilege of viewing.

The film emphasizes Maier's "stern spinster" status, but she was so much more complex than that. As one of the former children she cared for points out in the film, Vivian probably suffered from mental illness, but that didn't dim her gift for creativity and her technique for capturing wonderful moments on film.

It's a wonderful way to spotlight the legacy of someone who didn't crave fame, but most certainly needed validation.

To view some of Maier's work, visit her official website.


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