Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Vivian Maier Update

We previously told you about Vivian Maier, the Chicago nanny who took tens of thousands of photographs of Chicago street scenes that she never showed to anyone. Most were never even developed. Young real-estate agent John Maloof serendiptiously acquired them at an auction, not knowing what might be on all those rolls that had been abandoned in a storage locker. He was looking for images for a book he was writing. What he saw amazed him, and now he's devoting all his time to processing all that film, and establishing Maier's reputation in the pantheon of fine-art photography greats.

By the time Maloof even identified the mystery photographer, Maier had recently died. So he set out to find and talk to her former employers.

As this new CBS video (below) shows, one of the surprises is that the mysterious French nanny was hired in the late '70s by former talk-show host Phil Donahue to care for his four young sons. She took his picture, and, recalls Donahue, once sternly corrected him for calling her Mrs. Maier: "It's Miss Maier, and I'm proud of it!" Another client swears she never made personal phone calls, and had no friends.

Acclaimed photographer Joel Meyerowitz, who literally wrote the book on "street photography," offers an enthusiastic assessment of Maier's oeuvre: "She's not trying to charm anybody. She's ruthlessly honest. I think she should be taken seriously."

John Maloof is still working his way through her negatives -- there are still 90,000 he hasn't laid his eyes on.

Maloof has so far raised more than $75,000 to produce a feature-length documentary about his adventures, "Finding Vivian Maier." Using Kickstarter to group-fund his project, he's exceeded his $20,000 pre-production goal ("equipment, research, trips to conduct interviews and collect footage, editing costs for promotional trailer"), and will allocate the rest towards post-production. To help contribute, go here.

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