Finding Vivian Maier (John Maloof & Charlie Siskel, 2013)
Who knew Mary Poppins was a street photographer? Though she wasn’t quite as magical, Vivian Maier, like Poppins, was a nanny with a special gift. Snapping shots on her box camera wherever she went, she amassed a collection of over 100,000 photos which she kept in storage, some not even developed until they were found after her death by collector, John Maloof.Maloof stumbled across Maier’s photos by chance, after purchasing the box that held some of them at an auction. It’s debatable whether it was respectful of him to showcase her gift posthumously or whether he is exploiting her for his own gains. One old friend states that Maier would have hated that this film had been made. It’s not the most engaging doco, mostly because there are so many questions left unanswered, and possibly because it is Maloof’s first foray into film. It’s also a shame there is next to no video footage of Maier. Rather we rely on a scarce amount of sound bites which do little to let us in to her character.
That she never tried to showcase her remarkable work is a puzzlement. Her photos are a wonder to behold, and demonstrate a true gift. She was able to find such beauty in the world, despite a suggested dark past that is never quite uncovered. Though Maloof does uncover some background – through interviews with families that she worked for and some distant French relatives – much of her life and her desire for secrecy remains a mystery. She seemingly had few friends or close relatives, and no lovers as far as we can tell. Clearly a fascinating character, Finding Vivian Maier provides the bait, but never quite reels us in.