FILM | ‘FINDING VIVIAN MAIER’ REVEALS AMERICA’S GREATEST UNKNOWN STREET PHOTOGRAPHER
It turns out the greatest American documentary street photographer since Weegee, Vivian Maier, was also one of this country’s best kept secrets. An obsessive midcentury amateur photographer who secretly produced work on par with Diane Arbus for over 40 years in and around the city of Chicago while she quietly worked as a nanny, Maier’s trove of over 100,000 photographs would remain totally unknown to the outside world until after her death in 2009 when her anonymous archive was uncovered in an unmarked trunk at a storage space auction. Luckily, that new custodian of her work, then 26-year-old real estate agent, John Maloof, also president of Chicago’s Jefferson Park Historical Society quickly came to understand what he had on his hands. After some exhaustive detective work, Maloof began to piece together the artist’s desperately eccentric life story, a process he documents in the riveting film “Finding Vivian Maier.” Directed by Maloof and Charlie Siskel, perhaps the documentary’s greatest revelation is not just how brilliant Maier’s vision was, but how a person who lived a relentlessly public life pounding the pavement daily through some of the city’s worst neighborhoods to obtain her treasure trove of imagery could simultaneously remain a ghost to all who knew her.
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