Finding Vivian Maier (2013)
August 16, 2014 4:11 AM - Subscribe

A documentary on the late Vivian Maier, a nanny whose previously unknown cache of 100,000 photographs earned her a posthumous reputation as one the most accomplished street photographers.
posted by ellieBOA (6 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
There's an exhibit of her photos at the Chicago History Museum.
posted by brujita at 8:56 AM on August 16, 2014


This was an amazing film to me, but I'm of two minds about the find. Obviously, she's one of the most talented photographers of her time, but the fact that she never tried to present her work makes me wonder if she ever wanted to have it seen. Sometimes, you make art for others, and sometimes, you make it for yourself.
posted by xingcat at 3:18 PM on August 16, 2014


Recent LAT story on the collector who bought the negatives and co-directed the film.
posted by Ideefixe at 4:35 PM on August 16, 2014


I felt that way too xingcat, enjoyed the film, but from the descriptions given by her friends/employers, I'm not convinced it's what she would have wanted. I was uncomfortable with the implied idea that John Maloof would profit from this too.
posted by ellieBOA at 6:00 PM on August 16, 2014


Although I hear that she's been an internet sensation for a few years, mentioned on here more than once, I never took notice until I caught this film on TV the other night. Since then I've been a bit fascinated by her story, maybe because I'm an aging loner and an unsuccessful artsy type myself, and she's an enigma anyone can attach their own outlook on to. I just now watched the BBC documentary "Who Took Nanny's Pictures" that's available on youtube. It offers a slightly different perspective, interviewing a couple other finders of her work, including the guy with an account here. It also focuses more on her mid-twenties period of her time in France and return to New York when she seems less an eccentric nanny and more a person with artistic ambition, perhaps stemming from that female photographer who they lived with when she was a child.

I don't think you can separate her work from her story. Certainly when we see the bulk of them now, capturing another time, her talent is clear. But would it be obvious then, to someone seeing a handful of pictures, or would they have looked at her as just another amateur taking shots of street people? I like her self-portraits most of all, peeking out of cluttered storefronts like someone momentarily fascinated by their image caught out of the corner of their eye. But I don't think they'd have the same power without the story of someone who was alone and mostly unnoticed. She did encounter people who were a part of artistic and media networks, who you would think would be more attuned to noticing the ability of someone who carries a high quality camera with her everywhere. Not only Phil Donahue, but the mother in her most stable household was a sculptor, and the mother of the one little girl was a photo editor at a newspaper. But they didn't, maybe because she was only a nanny, maybe because we're often less attentive to what is right under our nose.

None of the Gensburgs, the family who employed her the longest at a time when she was younger and maybe less odd, and who helped support her in her last years, agree to speak in either film. In her obituary which they placed they call her a movie critic and photographer extraordinaire. So they were somewhat aware of her unique qualities.They probably knew her better than anyone, and might counter some of the myth.
posted by TimTypeZed at 9:36 AM on November 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


I finally saw this film last night.
It is as touching & as wonderful as the VM discovery story itself.
posted by growabrain at 10:32 AM on November 1, 2015


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