Finding Vivian Maier

Synopsis: Real estate agent John Maloof explains how a trip to a local auction house, in search for old pictures to use for a history book about his neighborhood, resulted in him bidding and winning a box full of old negatives. John goes through the massive quantity of negatives, describes how impressed he is by the quality of the images, becomes quickly determined they are not reverent to his project and just puts them away. That could have very likely had been the end of the story, if the power of the images had not pushed him to fall in love with photography. John confides that his photo hobby quickly motivated him to set up a darkroom and devote large amounts of time printing. As he learned more about photography, he recognized that those negatives he had bought, then stored, were the work of a real master. In an attempt to confirm his suspicion, he selected about 100 images and put them online with the hope that the feedback would confirm his judgement as to the strength of the images.
Production: IFC Films
  Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 11 wins & 21 nominations.
 
IMDB:
7.7
Metacritic:
75
Rotten Tomatoes:
95%
NOT RATED
Year:
2013
83 min
Website
69 Views

Paradoxical.

- Bold.

- Yeah.

Mysterious.

- Eccentric.

- Eccentric.

- Private.

- She was a very, very private woman.

I never had any idea

she took pictures.

She would take photographs.

Many, many photographs.

She would never have let this happen.

Is there anything that you wish

you had done differently than...

Sure. I wish I would have found

those negatives instead of you.

Ten dollars... Let's go harder.

Ten bucks.

Then I'll have to end in five.

So can I have...

It was winter 2007.

I'll have to go seven, anyone at seven?

Seven and a half. Ten.

And ten, gotta go $10...

The auction house is across

the street from my home.

I found this box that was

loaded with negatives.

$70. 75 there... $80.

I was writing a history book, and I

needed a lot of historic photos.

And so I would, like, you know, take the

negatives and I'd look up into the light,

and I'd look for images of Chicago.

150, 160...

There were several boxes

that went with the set.

I just went for the biggest one.

39 is your buyer, 39 is your buyer.

I won it for, I think it was $380.

The auction house told

me the photographer,

her name was Vivian Maier.

Google searched her...

nothing at all.

I mean, absolutely nothing.

So I just kind of

gave up for a while.

I looked at some of

the stuff that night,

and it was cool, but nothing

worked for the book,

so I just put it in the closet.

I just had to figure out, what am

I going to do with this stuff?

That's what sparked me

to start scanning it.

I have a reflex, where we'll

be driving somewhere,

and I'll just, like, spot

something from down the road

that I know what it is and

I know that it's valuable.

I grew up doing the flea

markets with my brother.

My father did it. His father did it.

I would do storage

auctions with my brother.

And he'd win some,

and we'd clean 'em out.

We threw out tons of negatives.

Cos there's no value in negatives

to most resale people.

And these negatives that

I discovered, what I saw at first,

I didn't know if it was really good.

I knew that I thought it was good.

I contacted a couple of galleries.

I didn't know where to go.

I made a photo blog and I

put about 200 images up.

I put a link on Flickr.

That post, it just went insane.

So I went on this mission to piece

together the rest of her work.

And then, I found the other

people who bought boxes,

and I bought their boxes.

And then I had all these negatives,

like, insane amounts of negatives.

You always want to know

who is behind the work.

I just knew her name

was Vivian Maier.

Was she a journalist?

Professional photographer?

"Let me just Google her name again

to see if there's anything up. "

And I found an obituary that was placed

just a few days before that search.

I found an address in her stuff.

And after some, like,

WhitePages searches,

I called, and I said,

"I have the work...

the negatives of Vivian Maier. "

And he was like,

"Oh, that was my nanny. "

That was his nanny.

Why is a nanny...

taking all these photos?

What they started

to tell me about her

was... was strange.

He said, "She was kind of a loner.

"She didn't have any

family that we knew of.

"She never had any love life

or children that we knew of.

"But she was like our mother. "

So it just caught my curiosity.

So what I said was, "Do you

have any of her stuff?"

And they said, "Well, I've been keeping

up the bills on her storage lockers.

"We wanna throw all the stuff out.

She was a pack rat. "

I said, "No, no, no, don't. "

He's like, "You don't understand.

She was a pack rat.

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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