Finding Vivian Maier: New Documentary Reveals the Vision of Obscure Chicago Street Photographer

The posthu­mous dis­cov­ery of Vivian Maier’s pho­tographs is an art world stun­ner on the order of Hen­ry Darg­er’s mas­sive In the Realms of the Unre­al.

The syn­chronic­i­ty makes one won­der.

He was a Chica­go-based cus­to­di­an.

She was a Chica­go-based nan­ny.

They shared a com­pul­sion to create—some might say document—but were so intense­ly pri­vate, the rev­e­la­tions of their respec­tive lives’ work threw every­one for a loop.

Employ­ers and neigh­bors found it hard to believe they’d had it in them. (View an online gallery of her work here.)

Cura­tors, mar­veling at the quan­ti­ty of their out­put and qual­i­ty of the vision, piled on superla­tives.

Some­thing tells me the prick­ly Ms. Maier would not have appre­ci­at­ed any com­par­isons to a man whose work fea­tured so many rep­re­sen­ta­tions of naked, her­maph­ro­dit­ic girl-war­riors being bay­o­net­ted, but death makes it dif­fi­cult to keep hold of the reins gripped so tight­ly in life.

For the fore­see­able future, Maier’s lega­cy rests in the hands of John Mal­oof, the young Chicagoan who bought her neg­a­tives from an unpaid stor­age unit for less than $400, hop­ing he might find some­thing of rel­e­vance for a neigh­bor­hood his­to­ry project. He got more than he bar­gained for, obvi­ous­ly, but the years spent scan­ning the unknown artist’s work is begin­ning to pay off in exhi­bi­tions, gallery rep­re­sen­ta­tion, and a book. Now he is near­ing com­ple­tion of Find­ing Vivian Maier, a doc­u­men­tary film that promis­es to shed more light on this fas­ci­nat­ing tale.

Would the sub­ject have want­ed this?

Per­haps that’s a ques­tion for the Hen­ry Darg­er Study Cen­ter at the Amer­i­can Folk Art Muse­um

Relat­ed Con­tent:

David Lynch Talks About His 99 Favorite Pho­tographs at Paris Pho­to 2012

1972 Diane Arbus Doc­u­men­tary Inter­views Those Who Knew the Amer­i­can Pho­tog­ra­ph­er Best

Pho­tog­ra­phy of Lud­wig Wittgen­stein Released by Archives at Cam­bridge

Ayun Hal­l­i­day, a point and shoot hack, is relat­ed by mar­riage to anoth­er female street pho­tog­ra­ph­er with an inter­est­ing lens on his­to­ry. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday

by | Permalink | Comments (0) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.