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finding vivian maier

Documentaries are perhaps my favourite form of story-telling – either for radio or tv.

But increasingly really amazing documentaries are getting a cinema release, and that’s what’s happened to the truly remarkable ‘Finding Vivian Maier (12).’

The story of the nanny photographer Vivian Maier (1926-2009) is one that has generated the sort of column inches any documentary maker can only dream of.

I first became aware of Maier’s story in the summer of 2013 thanks to a film in the BBC’s ‘Imagine’ series called ‘Who Took Nanny’s Pictures?’

She’d worked as a nanny for well-to-do families in New York and Chicago, but unbeknownst to pretty much everybody, she’d taken thousands and thousands of street photographs.

That we do know about her and her huge body of work is down to a Chicago history buff called John Maloof.

He bid a few hundred dollars at an auction for some crates of photographic negatives, which is the starting point of ‘Finding Vivian Maier’ – a film which he has co-directed and which is receving rave reviews around the world.

The picture that emerges in both the ‘Imagine’ film and ‘Finding Vivian Maier’ is a complex but fascinating one.

So if you like a good detective story, or you enjoy seeing the fruits of a talented person, whatever their field, then ‘Finding Vivian Maier’ is worth seeking out.

No doubt it’ll be out on DVD ere long, but seeing it on a big screen in a packed out small cinema with 50 or 60 other spell-bound people is one of my summer 2014 highlights.

It’s also inspiration for a photographic history project of my own, which may well become the focus of this blog in coming months.

Watch this space.

The self-portrait of Vivian Maier is from the Maloof Collection.

BBC Imagine – Who Took Nanny’s Pictures?

Vivian Maier website – ‘Finding Vivian Maier’ trailer

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