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For mystery lovers, photography enthusiasts, admirers of a contemporary explorer: Nathan Lerner (1913-1997) who unearthed the voluminous works of legendary “outside” artist, Henry Darger (1892-1973); this hypnotic documentary is a fascinating story of a solitary, insular person;  an enigamatic tale of a woman who chose to live her life shrouded in secrecy; all the while executing some of the most remarkable photographs thriving today.

Historian and sleuth John Maloof in a propitious moment purchased hundreds of rolls of undeveloped film, for approximately $400;  once developed the images stunned photographers and viewers with the prescient depth, curiosity, vision and “eye” of this unknown talent.  The documentary traces Vivian’s journey from her murky past in New York,  a ten -year sojourn in France,  eventually concluding in Chicago, where she earned her livelihood as a nanny. Vivian Maier (1926-2009) was never seen without a Rolleiflex camera dangling from her neck; tall, formidable and inimitably intimidating her subjects ran the gamut from benign to sublime, perpetually imbued with dignity. She rests comfortably with her iconic predecessors: Weegee (Arthur Fellig), Diane Arbus, Robert Frank.

Vivian is described by the people she worked for and the children in her care as: strange, intransigent, intractable, cruel,  elusive, reticent, kind; a monumental hoarder of newspapers, receipts, social security checks; demanding a lock on her door and refusing entry to all.  Her solo companion, the trusty tool that never left her presence, her camera captures beautiful moments of her youthful charges; now adults, their memories vary with shades of affection and wariness; one universal truth prevails, she was an unknown entity that briefly touch their lives.

She had no need to develop her rolls, reels of film; her validation came from the photographic process; her camera informed her existence; seeking neither lionization nor fame; her camera was her faithful friend, lover, child; her camera was the constant in her life, never disappointing, always fulfilling; it was enough.  Surely, she would have been chagrined at her posthumous awakening; shrugging her impressive shoulders, shunning the publicity, fading into the evening.



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  1. Barbara Geraghty

    Agree with your four star review. What a film! Exploitive, yes. Manipulative, yes. Isn’t that what art is? Doesn’t art require that kind of sacrifice and exposure? She was brilliant. A photographer with an eye for capturing humanity as she walked around town and capturing it in remarkable ways. Her job as a nanny gave her the freedom to pursue her art, the independence to pursue what she was driven to do. She was also such a vulnerable figure. Yes, she did harm, but there was love and affection there, too, in the home movies. She was living with something very difficult and we will never know what it was. Was he doing the right thing following his curiosity? Lots of questions and many loose ends. All she could do was take the pictures. Wow, what pictures!!

    • Terrific, wise comment; the succes of the documentary lies in your prescient insights. Thank you so much for sharing this!!! P.

  2. Harvey and I just saw Finding Vivien Maier. Thank you for telling us that is was “on demand” It was a wonderful film and perfect for seeing at home. We didn’t need the big screen for it. The photographs were amazing. What a complicated human being and a lovely well done film about this talented woman.

    • Try to see the show at the Chicago History Museum (if it is still there); she was one of a kind!
      Thank you for commenting> P.

  3. Barbara Geraghty

    We are seriously considering a trip to Chicago to see the exhibit! The movie speaks to our culture and exposes the gatekeepers at museums who refuse to acknowledge her talent because she was an unknown without credentials. Made us wonder how many other undiscovered artists there are out there!

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