Nanny. Hoarder. Prolific street photographer. All of these labels can be used to describe the late Vivian Maier, a formerly unknown artist who is the subject of a fascinating new documentary film by John Maloof, a Chicago-based real estate agent and amateur photographer who discovered her extensive collection, which has since been exhibited here in Chicago, as well as in New York, Los Angeles, London and France.
In Finding Vivian Maier, we learn how Maloof first came across the collection while at a local auction house searching for photographs to use for a local history book he was planning to write. Knowing almost nothing about the contents or where they came from, he decided to buy the largest box for $380. In total, it contained approximately 100,000 negatives, 700 rolls of undeveloped film, as well as eight and sixteen millimeter movies.
Overwhelmed by the positive reactions and comments he received after digitizing and uploading 100 select photographs to his blog, Maloof was compelled to find out more about the collection and in particular, this “V. Maier” listed on several receipts and other documents found in the boxes. He soon discovers that “V. Maier” is Vivian Maier, a local nanny who, unbeknownst to almost everyone she knew, was a talented amateur photographer. But why would anyone so talented not share that with the the people she knew, worked for and lived with?
Throughout the course of the film, we follow along as Maloof tries to find answers to the many questions surrounding Vivian Maier’s life: where was she originally from? Did she have any family? What were her motivations? What intentions (if any) did she have for the collection? The interviews we see in the film involving friends, former employers as well as some of the children she once cared for (now grown), help reveal bits and pieces of her life, talent and complex personality. A fascinating film that would appeal to anyone interested in photography and local interest stories, I highly recommend Finding Vivian Maier.