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Vivian Meiar


After seeing the BBC Imagine Documentary on Vivian Maier I really wanted to hate John Maloof’s “Finding Vivian Maier” based on his procurement of her photographs at an auction resulting from her inability to pay her storage facility fees. In my opinion, Maloof has strong personal motives making this film: money and recognition. To me, the film is as much about Maloof as it is about Maier. We clearly see some opportunism here, but Maloof was the descendent of a family who engaged in such activities so essentially he was acting true to his upbringing; nothing new. Yes, the so-called ‘documentary’ somewhat resembles an infomercial pointed out by Manohla Dargis review in the New York Times, The Nanny as Sphinx, Weaving Enigmatic Magic on the Sly, but yet what draws us in, is exactly that; it’s tabloid voyeuristic style. We WANT to know how Maier, a nanny as well as a photographer, force fed one of her charges and went through garbage bins on the street. How a man must have abused Maier in her youth because of certain facts brought forth in the movie. What is fascinating about the film, is that it closely replicates what Vivian Maier’s intention was. Maier was a paparazzi of the street, a self-proclaimed ‘spy’, almost a voyeur if not for the extreme empathy between photographer and subject you so often find in her work. We feel like intruders watching the film because we are and so is Maloof, but people making money off dead artists has always been di rigueur. My problem with the movie is that I feel he is less interested in Maier and her extraordinary photographs than his interest in monetary gain and fame. After watching the BBC production, you don’t feel like you need to take a shower and scrub yourself raw. The BBC documentary leaves you with a feeling of deep respect for Maier’s work, her work ethic and integrity as a human being, though her personal life was deeply troubled. This of course is because BBC has no ulterior motive except to make an excellent documentary. But…if it was not for Maloofs entrepreneurial predilection, the work might never have gained such interest and we possibly might never have had the extraordinary pleasure of looking at such brilliant and deeply touching photography. She might have been ruthless in how she went about ‘stealing’ images from the world, but the images are steeped in compassion and the ones that are sardonic, well….in my opinion, YOU GO GIRL.


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