Saturday, March 5, 2016

Finding Vivian Maier

I had read so much about the discovery of Vivian Maier's photography and the unusual story of her life that I didn't feel much curiosity or urgency about seeing the documentary, Finding Vivian Maier. I'm so glad I finally go around to it!

The documentary does a great job presenting not only the vast amount of negatives and undeveloped film she kept, but the strange accumulation of objects she amassed as a compulsive hoarder. It helped me see the intense value of the discovery and provided some insight into her mysterious life.

The photographs she took are startlingly beautiful and her eye was very sophisticated. The work shows a deep visual connection to human suffering.

But Finding Vivian Maier goes beyond showing the artistic value of these, and is more about trying to put together an image of the woman herself and the life she led as a nanny to wealthy families. Some of what the grown children she cared for shared in their interviews was upsetting and dark, and from other interviews you get a sense of an isolated, disturbed woman. Her identity as an artist remains murky -- it is unclear how she thought of herself in that way or how she thought about her pictures. I got the sense that her photo-taking was largely compulsive.

I was impressed by the dedication and work that Maloof, who first came across some boxes of her negatives, put into printing and scanning and sharing her work and investigating her background.

The movie also touches on class issues and art world practices. It raises many interesting questions, and was fascinating to watch.

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