FILM REVIEW: Finding Vivian Maier
Vivian Maier, the nanny of street photography, today obtains the fame she never received, or perhaps desired, in life. Kathrine Anker gives you a first look at what to expect from the new film from Charlie Siskel, and John Maloof.
Finding Vivian Maier portrays a person as intriguing as the photographic treasure she left behind. Always dressed in heavy boots and frumpy skirts, guarding her nanny chamber aggressively as piles and piles of negatives started to dominate the space, she would bring her Rolleiflex everywhere she went, dragging the children she cared for into the slums to capture everyday life. But as we follow the trail of clues through Maier's employers and the now grown-up children she took care of, it becomes clear that the mysterious woman, who never told anyone about her family or her childhood, had a darker side - and a whole host of personality quirks to boot. This is where the premise of the film becomes interesting; it is a detective documentary, so by its very nature it has to dig into the core of its subject, but by doing that, is it diluting the original art? To those who have seen Finding Vivian Maier, her pictures will henceforth carry a story much beyond what's in the frame, and not all unicorns and rainbows.
“I wanted to honour the memory of this fantastic photographer, and it turned out Vivian was no saint,” admits director Siskel. To him, knowing about Maier’s dark side doesn’t diminish the greatness of her art, or the importance of appreciating it. There is a fine line there, and the audience will probably have split opinions on it.
Watching the film feels a bit like undressing a very shy person; you can’t help but wonder whether she would have resisted the publicity. But halfway through the movie we stumble upon a clue that suggests that the talented photographer might have wanted her art to be seen after all. And it’s difficult not to get sucked in and crave even more clues about Maier’s mother and her childhood. There are clues left untouched, and who knows what they might have explained about the artist’s quirks or life choices. But then, this extremely private photographer would most definitely have preferred to have her posthumous fame served with some mystery left intact. After all, it’s the pictures that tell the main story.
If you'd like to find out more about Vivian Maier, the upcoming issue of our sister mag, Professional Photographer, will feature an archive section dedicated to the lady herself. To purchase a copy, visit www.buyamag.co.uk
Finding Vivian Maier is showing in cinemas across the UK now (www.sodapictures.com/cinema/234/)
To purchase original work by Vivian Maier visit www.beetlesandhuxley.com
For further information about Vivian and her work visit www.vivianmaier.com
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