Vivian Maier’s work was discovered accidentally. She took photos all her life and kept them hidden while working as a nanny. No one knew about the photos. In 2009, soon after her death, John Maloof accidentally bought a box of negatives and undeveloped films at an auction. He didn’t know what he was buying and he was amazed by what he saw when he scanned the photos. I heard the story some years ago and now I was looking forward to seeing this film he made, in search for this amazing artist that kept everything about herself to herself, including her wonderful photos.
The film is a mix of interviews with the ones who knew her and images and footage that she made. Saying that these people knew her is not really accurate. In fact the portrayal the film makes is like a puzzle. Sometimes the accounts contradict each other, the veracity of certain pieces is uncertain. Yet the sum of everything makes the curious story of this eccentric, enormously private and most likely mentally ill woman, who didn’t fit, and somehow it seems she didn’t even try to fit.
She had a french accent, her mom was from France but she was born in New York City and some people argue the accent was fake. She didn’t like to reveal her name to people, she didn’t like them to see the room she was living in. Even the people considered more or less her friends don’t really know a lot about her.
Maloof discovered her work and he feels it is somehow his duty to make her work get the recognition it deserves. Paradoxically, becoming a public figure is precisely what she didn’t want. But just like any great art, once you make it it’s out there and somehow no longer yours. Many of her photos will stick to your mind once you see them, and this film will stick to your heart because there’s something so curious and at the same time so sad about Maier’s story, and for most people, including me, her work and her consciously chosen lack of recognition during her life seem somehow unfair. I’m not sure unfair for whom it is unfair, there’s something in my mind that cannot ad up her talent and her anonymity, yet after seeing this film I see they do ad up put in perspective with the person that she was.
See the trailer below and Maier’s work here.