By Dirk Sonniksen | May 2, 2014
Director: John Maloof, Charlie Siskel
Writers: John Maloof (story), Charlie Siskel (story)
Is an artist who hides their work away from the public really an artist? Should they be recognized for their contribution after the fact? There are those who might say the contribution is only as great as the pedestal it’s placed upon. And then there’s John Maloof, who stumbled on thousands of negatives yet to be developed by a live-in nanny and unknown street photographer named Vivian Maier. As Maloof began to develop Maier’s photographs, he came to understand the importance of her photography and began a journey cataloging Maier’s vast body of work.
Finding Vivian Maier follows John Maloof as he attempts to shed light on Maier’s life and her incredibly prolific underground career as a street photographer. Maloof found tracking down Maier’s immediate family to be an exercise in futility, but he was able to locate many individuals that were entrusted to Maier’s care. Now adults, they piece together fragments of their time with Maier, giving the audience a glimpse into her secretive process as a photographer. The story that unfolds is one of Maier as a double agent of sorts—a nanny who believed in getting the children out into the world—a world that became a canvas for Vivian Maier and her Rolleiflex camera.
Vivian Maier is one of the most fascinating documentary studies one can find. Her life is a mystery rolled up into another and into another. Maloof’s discovery of Maier’s photographs is the beginning of our tale, but then he must uncover the reasons why Maier never submitted any of her work. From there, the question of Maier’s personal life and her beliefs arise, which sends Maloof trekking from America to a remote village in France, searching for the essence of Vivian Maier. What he discovers is a troubled yet inspired woman who possessed a stunning ability to capture life’s stark beauty through her lens.
Rating: 10 of 10