Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The woman behind the camera

Documentary film ‘Finding Vivian Maier’ coming to Ketchum

Express Staff Writer

Photographer Vivian Maier secretly took tens of thousands of photographs of herself and life in Chicago and cached them in a storage locker.
Courtesy photo

    The nonprofit Sun Valley Center for the Arts and Magic Lantern Cinemas will present the critically acclaimed documentary “Finding Vivian Maier” on Thursday, Nov. 6, at 7 p.m. This screening is part of “Thursdays at the Lantern,” a special film series running through mid-December at Magic Lantern Cinemas. For the series, The Center chooses films that one might only see in big cities or at art house cinemas (independent films, documentaries or foreign films) and makes them accessible to locals.
    “Finding Vivian Maier” tells the story of an enigmatic nanny, born in 1926, who secretly took more than 100,000 photographs. Her work was hidden in storage lockers and remained undiscovered for decades—until 2007, just two years before her death. When it was discovered at a local thrift auction house on Chicago’s northwest side, a plethora of negatives shed light on her fascinating story.
    “This movie is a must-see for anyone with an interest in photography, New York, self-portraits and mysterious stories,” said Kristine Bretall, director of performing arts for The Center. “One can’t help but see the world differently when you see her photos—and to wonder how others see the world, too. In short, it’s for everyone.”
    Maier is now considered among the 20th century’s greatest photographers. This documentary reveals Maier’s strange yet riveting life through never-before-seen photographs, films and interviews with dozens who thought they knew her. Was she a nanny? A photographer? A person who roamed the streets of Chicago taking pictures of herself and others? The answer depends on which lens you look at her through.
    “It’s clear from her photos that she was an astute observer of detail, composition and the human condition,” Bretall said. “Her photos reveal an unvarnished picture of both herself and others. The children she cared for have often described her as a ‘tell it like it is’ person—and I think she reveals that in her work.”
    Maier’s photographic subjects were the people around her, people un-posed and seemingly unaware that she was taking their photo. Her self-portraits are masterfully artistic and often reveal herself only in shadow.
    “One of my favorites [of her photos] is of a shoe shop window,” said Bretall. “Maier often used reflections in her shots. But in using reflection, she also would masterfully set the shot up with multiple reflections to create a vanishing point within the image.”
    The story of Vivian Maier is incredibly fascinating, and her photography is superb. Considering that more than 100,000 negatives were found, the world has only seen a small portion of her vast work.
    Tickets for the screening are $10 for The Center members and $12 for non-members. For advance ticket sales and more information on this or upcoming films, go to or call 726-9491. Pending availability, tickets may also be purchased at the Magic Lantern box office the evening of the Nov. 6 screening.

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