Divinely-Ordered Serendipity = Finding Vivian Maier



By: Vernon Nickerson

The writer-director dynamic duo of John Maloof and Charlie Siskel unite their creative powers to exquisitely present the heroic, tragic and thoroughly entertaining documentary, “Finding Vivian Maier”.  Ms. Maier, an amazing and prolific street photographer masquerading as a nanny for children of the final half of the 20th century, is a heroine of sorts herself by the end of Maloof and Siskel’s 83 minute gem of a compelling and engaging story.  During a period in America’s history when women have had to struggle to be recognized as so much more than the property of men or the wind beneath men’s wings, Vivian Maier traveled the world creating art wherever she was- hundreds of thousands of images and many video and audio recordings celebrating the human condition in all of its complexity and diversity.

If Vivian Maier’s life and art are the rich, lusciously layered and flavored cake of this documentary, the posthumous reflections of the parents who employed her and the children she cared for are the butter cream icing. At least since the beginning of recorded history, the wealthy and powerful have always appreciated the “invisibility” of their household staff. Add to the mix the widely-accepted social construct that children should be seen and not heard and a spectrum of child-rearing experts ranging from Dr. Spock to Dr. T. Barry Braselton and the fact that being able to afford live-in child care allows children to be seen and heard at the parent’s discretion (i.e., when it was convenient for the adults), being a nanny was the perfect employment for an artist who wanted to be out in the world and engage with nature, humans and animals.

My earnest hope and desire is that all creative people everywhere can see this film and be inspired and encouraged to continue their individual and collective journeys as artists.  That being said, I want to close this piece with an exchange that took place after the screening, Kudos to my friend Judy Haddad for her insightful observation.

JUDY HADDAD (audience member): “What a miracle of timing (it) was that John found that and found the family right at the time when they were just going to throw everything away.”

GATLIN: “Miracle of timing, because we wouldn’t be here…that’s why the story is so crazy remarkable.”

SISKEL: “Not only the right place at the right time, but the right person (John) to have done that work. What an incredible thing to have the opportunity to do something great and to seize it; and be willing to recognize it and make sacrifices and do the work tirelessly. Finally, someone asked the right questions, finally someone knew what to do with those photographs and we’re all better for it I think.”


Finding Vivian Maier 83 min

Directors: John Maloof and Charlie Siskel