Street photographer Vivian Maier was a nanny who’s photographs only became known and appreciated after her death and her story is as amazing as it is incomplete and at times frustrating. The new documentary Finding Vivian Maier details what little history we know of Maier along with the story of her posthumous discovery and is compelling whether you’ve heard of her or not. The film is co-directed by John Maloof, the man who first found a great deal of Maier’s unpublished and unseen work at an auction house in Chicago and began championing it. The film follows his journey from discovery into what he could find of her history through her employers and distant relatives.
As a photographer it’s difficult to comprehend why Maier never shared any of her images, but the film does a great job of illustrating why the photographs are so strong, highlighting themes ranging from humor to poverty. The film sheds insight into the dark, compulsive, and at times almost sadistic personal life of the artist, which infer some greater unknown trauma. The documentary also says a great deal about Maloof, who also shares a compulsive side as he painstakingly uncovers her past hunting down the children she watched, develops hundreds of her negatives which were found among her things, and methodically scans her negatives. The film is an exciting addition to the canon of biographical films on artists, but more importantly the story of this wonderful and illusive artist who was unknown in her time is so interesting and personal it transcends the genre.
Finding Vivian Maier opens in New York and Los Angeles on Friday, March 28.