One side effect of reading The Count of Monte Cristo is the urge to hunt for treasure. It is difficult suppressing the little girl inside of me that wants to grab a knapsack and search for undiscovered treasure1 in my own backyard. Sometime treasure can be found traveling down a smuggler’s island and discovering a fortune, other times treasure is discovered at an auction house. John Maloof went to an auction house to purchase negatives of Chicago for a history book he was writing. What he discovered were impressive photos of Chicago and its inhabitants, all taken by the nanny Vivian Maier. The photos are not just impressive, the are beautifully lit, the compositions are, at times, startling, and most importantly, her photos attract the eye for a long time.
In the world of Instagram, Facebook, etc, etc, the average person sees over 5,000 marketing images2 a day. Those images are looked at and processed by the brain for less than a second. We don’t spend time, we don’t focus on the images in front of us. We are assaulted by all manner of marketing, friends’ baby pictures, acquatainces who upload nice photos of their lattes and fruit, bathroom selfies, and so forth. Not only are images forced upon us at an astonishing rate, the average American takes 3223 photos a year. Taking pictures is a daily occurrence and for many people, it is an hourly activity. So what does that mean for the art of photography? Has it diminished as an art form because everyone is taking photos and yet no one is really thinking about the act of taking photos? And how can we, as fame loving, none stop photo taking people, understand Vivian Maier, who took hundreds of thousands of photos, and never shared them with anyone?
Finding Vivian Maier is a surprising and refreshing film. You will not understand Vivian Maier anymore at the end of the film than at the beginning. She was and is an enigma. A complicated woman with a tremendous talent. The documentary film, directed by John Maloof, is unburied treasure that you will delight in discovering. It is available now to rent or purchase on iTunes.
To purchase the newly published catalogue of Vivian Maier’s photos, click here. My copy is on its way!
1. Basically, I would like to go on a Goonies styled adventure and it be real! I want to find a real forgotten pirate ship and out smart booby traps.
2. This number is according to an article in the NYT. Read the article about marketing here.
3. This is taken from a National Geographic poll in 2011. See the infographic here.