Finding Vivian Maier
Winter 2014 Documentary series
Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 7:00pm
Directed by John Maloof and Charlie Siskel
Rated NR ·
Finding Vivian Maier
This intriguing documentary shuttles from New York to France to Chicago as it traces the life story of the late Vivian Maier, a career nanny who has earned a posthumous reputation as one of America’s most accomplished and insightful street photographers.
When Maier died in 2009 at age 83, she left behind more than 100,000 negatives—images that she had scarcely shared with anyone. She had spent most of her adult life as a child-care worker with no spouse, no children of her own, and no close ties. Her photographs and belongings were hidden in storage, until the rent came overdue and the facility auctioned them off. They might have vanished into obscurity were it not for the intervention of John Maloof, a 26-year-old amateur historian who purchased a box of Maier’s unidentified photographs and became obsessed by what he discovered.
In Finding Vivian Maier, Maloof teams with producer Charlie Siskel to uncover this mystery. Following clues, they trace Maier’s history through New York City, France, and Chicago. An inveterate wanderer and self-taught photographer, touring the world with her Rolleiflex twin-lens reflex camera, Maier had an uncanny ability to get close to people from all walks of life. Her artful and comic eye calls to mind the photography of Berenice Abbott and Weegee. Thanks to Maloof’s efforts, galleries, critics and commentators (including The New York Times) have now rallied behind Maier’s artistry.
But as Maloof meets people who knew Vivian, new questions arise about her life and work. The families who employed her as a nanny have mixed memories, and hint at her dark side. Would she have even wanted this attention? Answering that question depends on how you interpret different bits of evidence. Regardless, it is a wonder to behold the world through Vivian Maier’s eyes.
“This initially playful, ultimately haunting look at the once-secret career of street photographer Vivian Maier is an aptly obsessive study of obsession.” (Rob Nelson, Variety)