Vivian Maier’s story is well told in Who Took Nanny’s Pictures? a BBC documentary and a New York Times article does a fine job of explaining recent developments of Ms. Maier’s after life. And since there is virtually nothing more I can add other than opinion, well, that’s what I intend to offer.
Watch the documentaries and read the article and in perfect stride mine and any other opinion will unfold.
She was a nanny and took videos and pictures of children – chronicling their lives – because only children want that level of attention. They want to be noticed. Anyone else would simply become annoyed. Children are tremendously expressive and genuine. Capturing tender intimacy is a great satisfaction. The camera was perhaps the only she could experience it.
A recluse. A loner. A recluse loner. The children, now adults, say she had a dark side. Anger directed at people for their flaws and less than genuine nature. They weren’t pure of heart or purpose.
I would have liked Vivian Maiers. We share a few habits like not giving people our real names and not inviting people into our lives. We’re around people but absent simultaneously. Simply detached and avoiding attention.
Joel Meyerowitz in both films explains Vivian Maier’s likely psyche and it’s on point. Yes, her photos are very good, but I find more interest in her life story and am in great awe.
Perhaps she never found someone to confide in or who shared her sensibilities. That is so important in life. Or maybe the people around her, the families who shared their lives with her, where just too shallow. There’s a point in one of the films, cannot remember which one, where there is mention of Vivian identifying with the poor. Indeed she was poor and seeing the lives of these rich families probably helped harden the distaste and judgement she had about their lives and priorities. There’s an unfairness about life. After all, she obviously didn’t place importance on material possessions. Can you just imagine a servant, which she practically was, listening to the conversations of a well off husband and wife? Inconsequential worries and discussions. a world removed. More ANGER!!! that these people are so blind and self absorbed. She knew, had to have known, that she was disposable to the families. Here, take care of our children, share their early childhood lives and then kindly get out of our house and find your way economically; you you nanny. We don’t need you anymore. Door closes and the family moves on.
She wasn’t accepted. And not that she wanted to, but when accepted you have control to say no i don’t want to be accepted. And it is you that decides who can accept you. However, this only works for the rich and powerful. The poor pushed aside, unacknowledged. It doesn’t matter if you want to decide to be accepted because you don’t matter. I’ll find another nanny thank you.
But finally those people still alive can now rightfully understand her and how she towers over them. She’s won! She knew everything about these families and they knew nothing of her. what little they knew was all wrong. the control was her’s. The massive amount of work and quality simply overshadows these families. She is rich and now they are the poor. They are wiped away – erased. And while she may have been someone who they forgot, Vivian Maier will continue to live and these people will be forgotten. She’s achieved a mighty sweet revenge.
Viewing her work i wonder how did she get the focus just right and the image so clear and not blurred. Amazingly it was just pictures, but also video and newspaper clippings and audio tape recordings that she created. A pack rat of the highest order she apparently stored receipts and papers, letter, all manner of items. It’s interesting that one object, one thing, however invaluable suddenly gains value the more of it you have. The quantity of something grows into a collection and the value is in its variety and similarity. Maybe its simply the patience of collecting mundane objects that when grouped in large amounts bursts into something of value. Through the quantity emerges and glow an aura of interest and uniqueness.
Sold my Nikon several years ago during a trough in my life. I’m shopping for a camera now.
The time period seems to add to the surprise of her photos. A curiosity of the way things were. It’s essentially a complete documentation of her life. And that is wonderful.