Friday, January 16, 2015

Finding Vivian Maier (2013)

Directors: John Maloof, Charlie Siskel


A documentary on the late Vivian Maier, a nanny whose previously unknown cache of 100,000 photographs earned her a posthumous reputation as one of the most accomplished street photographers.

Film starts with explaining how John Maloof came across her work initially, through an auction of a box of undeveloped negatives which he grabbed in search of old photographs for a project he was doing. Even though it was not useful for his work, he recognized that the street photographs had great quality and the lack of information regarding the photographer intrigued him. He went on to buy all other boxes that were up for auction as well as Vivian Maier's leftover things. Turns out she was a secretive but caring nanny with possibly a fake French accent who born in 1926 New-York. Documentary pieces together her personality based on testimonials of people for whom she worked and children for whom she did the baby-sitting.  He also goes to a French village after finding it through her photographs and there he meets her last surviving cousin. The interaction with a photograph developer there suggests that she was aware about her own greatness in photography but her reclusive nature might have prevented her from reaching for a wider audience. She seems to be quite an intelligent woman who might come across as eccentric to others. I don't care anyway for what society deems as normalcy when it comes to behavior. All of us have our own eccentricities and plenty takes huge care in hiding them from others. 

John Maloof's attempt at getting her work into a museum or art establishment was met with resistance. He went on to hire art galleries to display her work and let the public decide. They have been a huge success which in itself questions the whole subjectivity that is associated with arts as well as the circle-jerking involved within the established art community. I am not really an expert but I found her work to be of value and I have always found street photography in black and white to be great. Black and White has the property to elevate even mundane looking things. Film has a voyeuristic quality and it does kind of tail off and become less interesting towards the end after it had established how Vivian Maier was. It has been shortlisted for the academy awards. This is the second documentary that I have watched from last year dealing with the art world, with the other being 'Tim's Veneer'.

Rating: 3.5/5