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Finding Vivian Maier - Film Review

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by Fiona Anderson (subscribe)
A Melbourne based writer who is a travel junkie, dedicated foodie and emerging photographer.
Published December 26th 2014
A gifted photographer exposed
Finding Vivian Maier is a fascinating documentary about a brilliant photographer, Vivian Maier, whose talent was discovered by pure chance. Not into self-promotion, Maier had stored away thousands of negatives of her images. A box of her images was bought at auction in 2009, shortly after Maier's death, by a student who needed material for a history project.

Vivian Maier
One of Maier's street photography images

The student, John Maloof, was stunned at the quality of the images he bought. Realising this talented photographer was a complete unknown (her name threw up nothing on Google!), Maloof started on an almost obsessional journey to learn more about her. He in part worked from obscure clues gleaned from the photographs to track down some of the places she'd lived, and some of the people she'd known.

He was stunned to learn that Maier had been a nanny and housekeeper in the wealthy suburbs of Chicago. It is clear that she had an extraordinary talent for street photography, that is, the spontaneous shots that capture a moment or incident that typifies an era. It is speculated the camera she used contributed to her ability to take such amazing candid shots; her favourite camera was a Rolleiflex twin-lens reflex camera, which is one the photographer looks down into to frame the shot, rather than holding it in front of the face. This means Maier could have set up her shot, perhaps without her subject knowing, and then in fact could engage with her subject while taking the shot.

Maloof tracked down some of the families Maier had worked for, and some of the children who had been her charges. There are hints at some darker sides to Maier, with some of the children suggesting almost a bullying personality. There is a strong consensus that she was eccentric. Upon starting work with a new family, she'd turn up with many trunks, which she'd insist needed to be securely stored. These, presumably, housed her 100,000 or so negatives.

Such was Maloof's obsession that he decided to make a film of his findings. He is the writer, co-director and co-producer of Finding Vivian Maier.

While Maloof learned much about Maier, he was never able to determine why she shunned public recognition of her work. Presumably that is a mystery that will never be resolved.

Vivian Maier
Vivian Maier - a self portrait. She remains a mystery.

I enjoyed this movie and would rate it a 3.5 out of 5. It would be interesting to anyone who has an interest in photography, or perhaps with a broader interest in art.

Watch the trailer for Finding Vivian Maier here:

Finding Vivian Maier is on limited release in cinemas and has also been released on DVD and Blu-ray. It runs for 84 minutes and is rated PG.

Vivian Maier
The movie Finding Vivian Maier is playing in cinemas on a limited release.

There are also two books available about Vivian Maier: Vivian Maier - Street Photographer, and Vivian Maier - Self Portraits.
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Why? To appreciate the art of this fine photographer - who chose not to share her talent with the world.
Where: On limited release in cinemas, or buy the DVD, Blu-ray or book.
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