December, 13 2013
The Secret Documentarian: Nanny Leaves Behind Thousands of Iconic Images

A nanny left behind thousands of photographs, videos and audiotapes she'd secretly taken throughout much of the 20th century. Found by chance, her fascinating images were purchased by a fellow photographer who then told her life story in a documentary.

by Magdalene
Culture
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Sometimes great talents walk among us totally and deliberately unnoticed. 
 
Vivian Maier was a private person and fame was not her style.  She was a nanny who secretly took thousands of photographs, 8mm movies and audiotapes, throughout the 20th century. She died in 2009, leaving behind her work in a storage locker that was sold off due to delinquent payments. Her images were only uncovered and purchased by John Maloof in an auction after her storage was repossessed shortly before her death. 
 
Maloof, a Chicago real-estate salesman, amateur historian and photographer, came across a huge box full of negatives when he was looking for a history book and he bought the negatives for US$380. When Maloof finally got around to looking at them a year later, he was awed by Maier’s beautiful images of people on the streets of New York and Chicago.
 
Fascinated, Maloof devoted years to find out more about her life and tracked down more of her work that others had purchased in the auction. He then documented, archived and shared some of her work in a blog. Maier’s work quickly captivated the photography community around the world. Some say in the art world she is a new icon of street photography genre.  As the story unfolds, Maloof and filmmaker Charlie Siskel made a documentary film, which tells the story behind the mystery of Maier’s hidden life.
 
“We were making the film as the photography was being developed and printed and shows were being done. We were making the film as the story was unfolding and developing, and kinda chasing the story as we went,” Siskel said at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival.
 



Many questions if Maier would mind if her work had been made public. Maloof says he will never know and justifies his publication from Maier’s recorded audiotape about what happens after you die.
 
 “Well I suppose nothing is meant to last forever, we have to make for other people. It’s a wheel. You get on you have to go to the end. And then somebody has the same opportunity to go to the end and so on. And somebody else takes their place,” Maier said.
 
The film, Finding Vivian Maier, will be released on March 28 2014. http://www.findingvivianmaier.com/Finding_Vivian_Maier/Movie.html