Discover an unknown genius in Finding Vivian Maier

Photograph c/o Knowledge Network

In FINDING VIVIAN MAIER, real estate agent John Maloof uncovers an unknown photographic genius who transforms his life.

Vivian Maier self portrait - Photograph c/o Colossal

Vivian Maier self-portrait

This time, the movie I’m including in my Discoveries section seems to doubly fit that term. FINDING VIVIAN MAIER is a fascinating documentary which charts the incredible story of John Maloof, a real estate agent, whose purchase of a box of negatives at a Chicago auction house in 2007 leads to an amazing discovery that in turn, changes his life.

The negatives were photographs taken by a woman named Vivian Maier. In 1956 aged 30, Maier started work as a nanny to families in the Chicago suburbs and for the next 40 years, she spent her time taking more than 150,000 photographs whilst caring for the children in her charge.

She never printed any of her work and so when Maloof began looking through the negatives he’d purchased, he was awestruck at the brilliance of Maier’s photos. Having found nothing online when he’d originally searched her name when he tried again in 2009, he came across Maier’s obituary.

Convinced of the uniqueness of her talent, he uploaded some of Maier’s images onto Flickr and the impact was immediate. The images went ‘viral’ and interest in Maier and her uncanny eye for street photography started to grow. FINDING VIVIAN MAIER is as much about Maloof’s passion to have Maier’s work recognised, as it is a journey to discover who this woman really was.

This 83-minute documentary Maloof has made with Charlie Siskel is quite riveting viewing. It mixes Maloof’s wonderfully relaxed narration on his own relationship (and obsession) with Maier’s work, alongside candid interviews with a great number of the people and families who knew her. You come away from the film feeling possibly a little ambivalent about the person behind the camera but not at all about the astonishing pictures that Vivian Maier spent her life capturing.