The secret eye of Vivian Maier
May 9, 2013 11:31 AM   Subscribe

Vivian Maier was a photographer who made some incredible images of 20th century America. But almost no one knew about her until 2007. And now a new documentary is being made about this enigmatic character whose incredible eye documented street life and characters in New York, Chicago and beyond.
posted by salishsea (13 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Vivian Maier previously: 1, 2.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:36 AM on May 9, 2013

Yeah, Vivian Maier is an incredible street photographer. Thanks for the post.
posted by phaedon at 11:36 AM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

These are just lovely.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 11:48 AM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

posted by caddis at 12:24 PM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

For some reason I am fascinated with the notion of living a private, seemingly unremarkable life and then leaving behind a body of work that that renders everyone gobsmacked. Even better somehow she escaped without the interviews and media attention and allows only her work to speak enigmatically for her. She really had an eye...
posted by jim in austin at 12:42 PM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Hopefully the "documentary" will be edited to fix the glaring errors in the trailer.
Lets start with the first 8 seconds.

• Voice over - "The auction House is across the street from my home"
• Visual - John Maloof holding a bidders number - actively bidding on an item
• Fact - He was not at the auction of her work. He left an absentee bid. He was never there holding up a bidders number to buy Vivian Maier material. Pure fantasy.

• Voice over - "I found this box"
• Visual - A large trunk being dragged across the floor.
• Fact - What was purchased my Maloof the night of the auction was a box containing negatives only. It was shoe box sized without a lid. It was not a massive heavy trunk load of unknown material. There is no reason to show a massive trunk being dragged across the floor. It did not exist.

• Voice over - "Full with negatives"
• Visual - A shot of yellow 35mm slide boxes
• Fact - There were zero slides purchased at the auction by Mr Maloof. Zero. Why these are shown is beyond me.

• Voice over - "I won it for it think it was 380 dollars"
• Visual - Mr Maloof sorting through a huge pile of paperwork, slides and vintage photos.
• Fact - None of these items were bought my Mr Maloof at that auction. This is again, is fantasy. No piles of personal papers, no slides, no photographs. He only bought one small box of negatives with an absentee bid.

Ok, I could see if this were a few errors that were done by an outside film crew - but Maloof wrote, directed and produced this documentary. I don't know of it's an ego thing, or maybe he just wants it to build up an awesome story - but if you're going to call it a documentary - leave the PT Barnum crap behind. Vivian Maier was an exceptional, important photographer. Her work is strong enough to stand on its own without the sideshow.
posted by Bighappyfunhouse at 12:55 PM on May 9, 2013 [9 favorites]

Jim in Austin: If that sort of story appeals to you, you may want to read about Henry Darger, another Chicagoan who -- like Maier -- also left behind an enormous body of artistic work created in seclusion.

Unlike Maier, though, he was still alive when his work was discovered after Darger had been moved to a nursing home. Luckily, the landlord cleaning out his old apartment was a photographer and teacher who recognized the potential value of the work; most landlords probably would have tut-tutted about the astonishing amount of crap in the apartment -- described as "including hundreds of Pepto-Bismol bottles, nearly a thousand balls of string, old newspapers, magazines and comic books, religious kitsch and much more" -- and chucked it all, I suspect. Darger's response, when the landlord came to him in wonderment at what he'd found: "It’s too late now; throw it all away."

[Darger previously on the blue: 1 2 3]
posted by orthicon halo at 2:27 PM on May 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

If you are nearby, the exhibit at the Chicago History Museum is really well done.
posted by theuninvitedguest at 2:36 PM on May 9, 2013

Well, Bighappy, I hope the documentary will not be as focused on Maloof and the somewhat over-hyped "discovery" (which was somewhat more complex as previous discussions have indicated), but if the trailer is any indication there will be a great deal of Maier's work and interviews with people who knew her personally, so it may not exactly be "The John Maloof Discovering Vivian Maier" story, even if there's still this element of self-promotion in it. I look forward to learning more about her. I would say two out of every three photos that I see of hers speak to me, and one out of every three makes my nape hair stand on end.

I also want to see more of old Chicago.

I assume that mirror photo in the blog link is a double-decker Chicago commuter train (anyone know), but what the heck is that robot/Indian decal thingy on the mirror itself?!
posted by dhartung at 5:56 PM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

However her photos came to light, they are breathtaking, so intimate, crisp, and full of pathos. Well the pathos is mine being they are individuals from another time, whose separateness speaks to the gulfs between us all. She is a powerhouse of observational skills, and photographic expressiveness. Anyway, my students get to see these on Monday.
posted by Oyéah at 7:24 PM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

dhartung, you'll be able to learn,
and see - much more about her very soon.

BBC One - The arts series Imagine - will be airing a Vivian Maier documentary in mid June. They were filming here in Chicago - as well as New York and France. It should be very interesting.
posted by Bighappyfunhouse at 8:48 PM on May 9, 2013

I have never seen her work before.
My first reaction is "Holy Fuck! These are some beautiful photographs."
I am feeling blown away, like when I saw the work of Robert Frank for the first time.
posted by dougzilla at 11:35 PM on May 9, 2013

I saw the traveling version of Maier's "Out of the Shadows" exhibit and instantly fell in love. I think, when all is said and done, we'll regard Vivian Maier one of the great artists of the 20th century.
posted by Apropos of Something at 11:59 PM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

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