Duration: 83 minutes
IMDB Rating: 7.7
Genre: Documentary, Biography, Drama
Directed By: John Maloof, Charlie Siskel
In today’s day and age, professional photography has become a full fledged profession. Fields such as street photography and travel photography, which are essentially subsets of the former, have not only gained emphasis but also a substantial increase in the niche audience.
The year 2013 saw the production of a documentary that shed light on the works of Vivian Maier. A nanny by profession, Vivian was an avid photographer but the brevity of her works was unknown to those around her- the documentary a means to understand this intriguing personality.
“Sleekly assembled and intriguing” -The Hollywood Reporter
Directed by John Maloof, the documentary ‘Finding Vivian Maier’ is more than just a narrative. It encompasses the spirit of women all across the world in the 1950’s and 1960’s, during a period in time when broken economies were redeveloping themselves.
The documentary starts off by trying to put forwards and explanation that governed the relationships that Vivian shared with those around her; she came across as a very secretive person.
100,000 negatives, 700 rolls of undeveloped coloured photographs, 8mm and 16mm movies- an approximate figure of the works that John Maloof happened to stumble upon during a locker auction. Despite these staggering numbers, one cannot fathom the intrinsic motivation that led Vivian to extensively capture photographs in her viewfinder.
The photographs themselves? According to art experts and curators from New York, these were indicative of the dynamism between human interactions, the proximity that one could achieve without coming off as ‘threatening’ or ‘intrusive’.
To address the question as to why the photographic fraternity has received her works with such enthusiasm lay in the composition, as the narrative suggests. Conveying human emotions in their purest form, Vivian captures empathy, pain and suffering with a vivid insight, a feature that distinguished her works from that of her compatriots.
With roots tracing back to the Industrial Revolution in the 1800’s, a duration wherein humans had adopted a psychology that catered simply to meet the supply-chain demand of the societal construct. The result? A degradation in the quality of workmanship despite the exponential advancements in technology and a subsequent degradation in the quality of life of the bourgeoisie.
Open to interpretation, the documentary is based on a pivotal question: ‘Why did Vivian Maier want to keep her work secret?’.
“WE’LL NEVER KNOW THE ANSWER TO THE QUESTION WHY SHE KEPT HER BEAUTIFUL WORK A SECRET.”
A house nanny by profession, an insight into Vivian’s life and personality is portrayed on screen via the director who skilfully stitches together the encounters that various families have had with her. Excerpts of the documentary see Vivian engrossed in her paraphernalia: the viewfinder, capturing moments that were reflective of the bourgeoisie of Chicago in the 1950’s.
‘Inseparable with her photographs’- a descriptions used to sum up Vivians personality by her former employees. Having captured more than 100,000 photographs back in the day, a question that one raises as a viewer is why was she not keen to share her photographs with others; did she think that they simply were not good enough? I would urge you to place yourself in her boots and muse about the predicament.
“WE HAVE TO MAKE ROOM FOR OTHER PEOPLE. IT’S A WHEEL – YOU GET ON, YOU GO TO THE END, AND SOMEONE ELSE HAS THE SAME OPPORTUNITY TO GO TO THE END, AND SO ON, AND SOMEBODY ELSE TAKES THEIR PLACE. THERE’S NOTHING NEW UNDER THE SUN.”
The latter parts of the documentary sees one faced with an ethical question, ‘Is it ethical right to develop the negatives that Vivian so closely safeguarded or is exhibiting her works the right way to commemorate the photographer?’ My personal opinion sees an inclination towards NOT publishing her works since it is an infringement of privacy, something one would not have done if she were alive.
To sum up, I feel that the documentary conveys a very relevant message in today’s world; a construct in which social media has violated the ‘privacy’ of an individual at the varying levels of societal construct. Vivian provides one with inspiration to grow beyond the facades of success and change intrinsic happiness, success eventually following suit.