Thursday, 31 July 2014

Interpreting Vivian Maier

With John Maloof's documentary 'Finding Vivian Maier' currently in the cinemas, you might be interested to know that the BBC broadcast their own documentary on the nanny/photographer last year and it is available on Box of Broadcasts: Vivian Maier - Who Took Nanny's Pictures?.  The trailer is above.

I watched both yesterday, and it is interesting to note the differences.

Maloof chose not to appear in the BBC's documentary because he was making his own film. Instead, they interview Ron Slattery, who owns about 2000 prints and negatives, and who is not in Maloof's film, and Jeff Goldstein, who is also not in the Maloof film, and who bought his collection from Randy Prow - one of three primary buyers, who bought the collection when Maier’s possessions came up for sale.

While the Maloof documentary focuses on his own central role in bringing the photographer’s work to light, the BBC show highlights the other actors - taking a closer look at what was bought by whom, and for how much, and when. We hear, for example, from auctioneer Roger Gunderson, who bought the contents of her lockers for $250 dollars - bidding from the door of the lockers for the contents, in a sort of lucky dip. We also hear from Ron Slattery, who seems to suggest that Maloof only began to understand the significance of his find, when contacted by Allan Sekula. And we hear from Jeff Goldstein, who describes how he is happy that his own purchases was ‘at one remove from all that stuff’ (by which he means the first few auctions).

By far the most authoritative voice in both documentaries is Joel Meyerowitz, who attests to Maier’s strength as a photographer, but also (in the BBC documentary anyway) to his concern that, “we’re only seeing pictures that the people who bought the suitcases decided to edit, and what sort of editors are they?” That, I imagine, is going to remain a pertinent question, as more of this intriguing photographer’s work comes to light.

Vivian Maier - who took nanny’s pictures? is repeated next Tuesday on BBC1 at 11:05PM and is available on Box of Broadcasts.

Further Reading

Paul Gallagher & Rob Hastings, The Vivian Maier “Discovery” Is More Complicated Than We Thought, The Independent, Friday 18 July 2014