Vivian Dorothea Maier (1926-2009) was an eccentric nanny, a tall lady who spoke with an odd accent. She earned her living taking care of other people’s children. With her Rolleiflex camera Vivian photographed whoever/whatever she found in her travels, mostly on urban streets. It seems a good many of her subjects were strangers. Then, by habit, she kept all those images to herself … along with her other secrets.
Not long before her death, a huge cache of her photos was serendipitously discovered by John Maloof, who was looking for old photos of a Chicago neighborhood. Maloof bought the trove in a storage box at an auction. All he knew was that it was full of photos and negatives. He never spoke with Vivian. After her death he began discovering what his acquisition entailed and who the photographer was.
Since she used various names at times, was Vivian even who she said she was? What was it she was so dedicated to documenting, or was it a random process? Was the sly photographer a spy of some sort? What do the children she looked after remember of Vivian?
Now the world knows who Vivian Maier was … or does it? Nonetheless, prints of the scenes she captured with her Rolleiflex are now hanging in posh galleries.
“Finding Vivian Maier” (2014) is an award-winning documentary that doubles as a mystery movie. It was directed by John Maloof and Charlie Siskel (see update below).
In conjunction with our two partners, Candela Books + Gallery and the VCUarts Department of Photography and Film, the Bijou Film Center’s upcoming fundraiser -- a one-time-only screening of “Finding Vivian Maier” -- will be presented on Feb. 15, 2015. It will be the Richmond premiere for this fascinating 83-minute documentary. Proceeds from our second Bijou at the Byrd event will again be split between the Byrd Theatre Foundation's Journey to the Seats and the Bijou Film Center.
By the way, when it came to selfies Vivian wrote the book. Happy new year.
Update (Jan. 15): "Finding Vivian Maier" has been nominated for the Best Documentary Feature Oscar. See the film on Feb. 15 at the Byrd. Root for it to win on Feb. 22.
More details will soon follow.
Photos by Vivian Maier; click on them to enlarge.