That is a trailer for the new documentary film, “Finding Vivian Maier.” A couple of years ago, I was visiting Santa Fe when I walked into a gallery off the square and discovered an exhibition of prints by Vivian Maier. I wrote a blog post about it here. At the time, Vivian Maier was only just beginning to be a phenomenon in the photography world; the exhibit I saw in Santa Fe was one of the earliest presentations of her work. In the two years since, interest in Vivian Maier has grown exponentially. More shows are being devoted to showing prints of her work, and her work is getting the critical attention it deserves.
From the Vivian Maier website:
An American of French and Austro-Hungarian extraction, Vivian bounced between Europe and the United States before coming back to New York City in 1951. Having picked up photography just two years earlier, she would comb the streets of the Big Apple refining her artistic craft. By 1956 Vivian left the East Coast for Chicago, where she’d spend most of the rest of her life working as a caregiver. In her leisure Vivian would shoot photos that she zealously hid from the eyes of others. Taking snapshots into the late 1990′s, Maier would leave behind a body of work comprising over 100,000 negatives. Additionally Vivian’s passion for documenting extended to a series of homemade documentary films and audio recordings.
Produced and directed by John Maloof, who has been responsible for getting Maier’s work to the attention of the photo world, the new film, “Finding Vivian Maier”, is now making the rounds of art house cinemas around the country, distributed by IFC Films. Here is the film website.
There are so many fascinating questions about Vivian Maier’s life and photography. Can work like Maier’s be appreciated or enjoyed apart from the story of her life? Well, yes, but I think so much is lost if we try and do that. Maier’s life and photography are of a whole, and her art encompasses both.
What I find most interesting – even more than the astounding quality and perceptiveness in Maier’s work – is that most of the over 100,000 images she made were never printed during her life. Did she intend for her photography to be seen? Did she expect that it would be? Was she only shooting images for herself? Her street photography developed her art and skill to such a high degree, almost redefining the nature of street photography. Is it art? Can a photographic image be art if it is not exhibited? For what purpose did Maier capture so many incredible scenes of urban life?