Staff Pick: “Finding Vivian Maier” is a portrait of an unsung artist

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From the April 24, 2014 edition

Some of my favorite documentaries tend to tell stories you wouldn’t believe if they weren’t true. “Finding Vivian Maier” is one such story.

Vivian Maier worked as a nanny for four decades in Chicago. Secretive and somewhat reclusive, Maier’s eventual legacy would be discovered when real estate agent John Maloof bought a large batch of photographic prints and negatives from an auction house.

Maloof’s further investigation led to the discovery of more than 100,000 prints and undeveloped negatives spanning decades of Maier’s photography. “Finding Vivian Maier” details Maloof’s efforts to dig into Vivian’s past, as well as get her works publicly exhibited.

With my Columbus photographer/artist friend Lisa Ragland reminding me of Maier’s bold approach to street photography (as well as Maier’s eccentricity), I found myself entranced into this look at an artist who didn’t seem to intend to share her art.

As the details grow more and more strange, the documentary takes form as both an unfolding mystery and a portrait of an artist’s mind (often a terrifying and fascinating place).

Bottom line: “Finding Vivian Maier” is one of the best documentaries of this year.

Photo courtesy of IFC Films