I took myself on a inspiration date last night and saw Finding Vivian Maier at Landmark in Chicago. I've been looking forward to seeing this story told since Vivian, an unknown nanny in Chicago who's photo treasure trove was "discovered" when bought at an estate auction by John Maloof. Thousands and thousands of negatives and hundreds of rolls of film along with bits and pieces of life were in boxes and boxes. John had an eye enough to know the images he found were special and began a process of scanning, printing and displaying the work. But who was Vivian? That's what the film is about.
First off, the film is a must see. There. Two thumbs up, 5 star, whatever. It's not the greatest documentary in the history of documentaries, and having done one I know how hard they are to do. But, the story is interesting and done well and you do get a better picture of who this person was. Spoiler...she was a hoarder. Which makes sense...keeping all those photos and obsessively creating them is an OCD/Hoarding trait. And that brings me to my big point.
I think Vivians work is awesome! I bought the book when it came out. I absolutely love the images of
a time gone by. My thought on her being an undiscovered great artist is this...I think she was, but by accident. I think Vivian was a "Pure Eye", and by that I mean she wasn't driven by image sales, portfolio or art school. She was a person who obsessively took photos, had a keen eye, a personality that allowed her to "be" places...in that sense much like Annie Liebowitz's early work...minus the Rolling Stones. I think she knew about other great photographers of the time, as her styles flow between emulating all of them. I think her true treasure is in the images she captured...they were regular life in the cities she visited or lived in, and their point of view was so beautifully neutral. And I think because her work was her outlet/hobby she didn't look at things the way a 20year professional photographer would. I look at something and I know how to make a, at least, decent photo. I've been doing this since I was 18....I went to school for it, I worked for top people and I've been shooting and DEVELOPING my way of shooting conciously in order to fulfill my artistic persuits but to also gain and retain clients. I don't think Vivian had this specific drive, which is why I love her work for the documentation of an era over the "artist" aspect. Which may also be why, as mentioned in the film, the "Art World" hasn't filed in to buy into her work. She didn't have an artistic message, she was looking and clicking...which I find beautifully refreshing. I went to the late show and got to enjoy a Q/A with Maloof and Siskel (director/producer). Fully enjoyable...go see it on the big screen.