Finding Vivian Maier is a puzzle pieced together with mysterious results
Finding Vivian Maier is an eye-opening examination of the recently discovered street photographer.
Real estate agent and first-time director, John Maloof, explains how a trip to his local auction house, in search for old pictures to use for a book on the history of his neighbourhood, resulted in him bidding and winning a box full of old negatives. Maloof tells how he went through the negatives, was impressed by what he had seen, but quickly determined they were not reverent to his project and just put them away. That could have very likely been the end of the story, but thankfully Maloof returned to the box and fell in love with the photography he had acquired. Maloof's hobby of unearthing this photography motivated him to set up a darkroom and devote large amounts of time scanning the negatives. As he learned more about photography, he recognised that these negatives were the work of a real master. In an attempt to confirm his suspicion, he selected around 100 images and uploaded them online with the hope that the feedback would confirm his judgement as to the strength of the images. It worked. Response was huge but this only lead Maloof to find out exactly who this photographer was.
fascinating piece of work
Upon finding a hand written address with a name scribbled in pen, Maloof begins to trace the footsteps of Vivian Maier. After contacting the address, he discovers Maier was a nanny. So with this lead, Maloof tracks down families she lived with during her days as a nanny, speaking to the children Maier looked after. All these pieces help us understand Maier's person. She was a mysterious and hugely private person but for all his efforts, Maloof can't put his finger on why she never attempted to sell or even allow her photographs to be seen. Since her work has now been viewed in galleries around the world, Maier has acquired a posthumous reputation as one the most accomplished street photographers.
There is an argument that this documentary could be seen as an invasive look at a private woman's life-long work. It may also be something she never wanted to be unearthed, and at times, the movie can be guilty of stepping over the mark when examining her motives and decisions regarding her outlook on life. Either way, it's a fascinating piece of documentary work that probes away at an unsolved mystery. Although Maloof fails to find a definitive answer as to why she left her work unseen, that in itself, adds to the overall intrigue of the movie.