Maloof and Siskel: Finding Vivian Maier

”Finding Vivian Maier” is ”documentary of the Month” at the Cinematheque in Copenhagen with screenings from the 23rd of October, so Copenhageners – this is a must-see, it is lovely portrait of a mysterious woman, who her whole life was working as a nanny or governess, serving others at the same time as she, always with a camera around her neck, was taking photographs that she never showed to others. A person who ”never fit in”, an eccentric. She lived from 1926-2009. Close to her death, a quote from the website of the film…

”… Maier’s massive body of work … came to light when in 2007 her work was discovered at a local thrift auction house on Chicago’s Northwest Side. From there, it would eventually impact the world over and change the life of the man, who championed her work and brought it to the public eye, John Maloof.

Currently, Vivian Maier’s body of work is being archived and cataloged for the enjoyment of others and for future generations. John Maloof is at the core of this project after reconstructing most of the archive, having been previously dispersed to the various buyers attending that auction. Now, with roughly 90% of her archive reconstructed, Vivian’s work is part of a renaissance in interest in the art of Street Photography.”

Of course one might say that it is the work of an artist that is interesting and not her/his life. In this case, however, the putting her life together piece by piece through the photos and interviews with those, who employed her and

the kids, she took care of – many of them are in the photos – brings forward a facetted portrait of Vivian Maier, who did not want to tell, where she came from and in many cases gave people, who asked, a fake name like V. Smith. So the enigma, the mystery around her private life still stands as does the question whether she would have wanted the photos to be published. The answer to this… well, if she kept all the negatives in boxes, if she kept all the receipts from photoshops, if she kept everything in order, one could make the conclusion that she would not mind that someone found them and made them public?

The photos have a great documentary quality. She has been able to catch the moments, to get close to people, to convey humour and tragedy, ”the bizarreness and incongruity of Life” as one of the interviewed employers says. She travelled the world in 1959 documenting what she saw, a street photographer, well this is where she was with the children she was looking after, sometimes she forgot them, one of the now grown-up males says. A closed person, hiding behind the Rolleiflex, a true documentarian.

If you are not in Copenhagen, you can get to the film through the film-link below and/or go to the photos via the second link.

USA, 2013, 83 mins.

Photograph: © Vivian Maier/Maloof Collection © Vivian Maier/Maloof Collection (taken from Guardian).

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Tue Steen Müller
Tue Steen Müller

Müller, Tue Steen
Documentary Consultant and Critic, DENMARK

Worked with documentary films for more than 20 years at the Danish Film Board, as press officer, festival representative and film consultant/commissioner. Co-founder of Balticum Film and TV Festival, Filmkontakt Nord, Documentary of the EU and EDN (European Documentary Network).
Awards: 2004 the Danish Roos Prize for his contribution to the Danish and European documentary culture. 2006 an award for promoting Portuguese documentaries. 2014 he received the EDN Award “for an outstanding contribution to the development of the European documentary culture”. 2016 The Cross of the Knight of the Order for Merits to Lithuania. 2019 a Big Stamp at the 15th edition of ZagrebDox. 2021 receipt of the highest state decoration, Order of the Three Stars, Fourth Class, for the significant contribution to the development and promotion of Latvian documentary cinema outside Latvia. In 2022 he received an honorary award at DocsBarcelona’s 25th edition having served as organizer and programmer since the start of the festival.
From 1996 until 2005 he was the first director of EDN (European Documentary Network). From 2006 a freelance consultant and teacher in workshops like Ex Oriente, DocsBarcelona, Archidoc, Documentary Campus, Storydoc, Baltic Sea Forum, Black Sea DocStories, Caucadoc, CinéDOC Tbilisi, Docudays Kiev, Dealing With the Past Sarajevo FF as well as programme consultant for the festivals Magnificent7 in Belgrade, DOCSBarcelona, Verzio Budapest, Message2Man in St. Petersburg and DOKLeipzig. Teaches at the Zelig Documentary School in Bolzano Italy.

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