Public Life, Private Life, Secret Life

I heard about a documentary a few months ago that really piqued my interest.  I was told the  tickets were hard to come by and if I was interested in seeing it, I better act fast.

It was the story of how thousands of undeveloped photos found their way into the hands of John Maloof, a young man who then turned the story of these photos into a documentary. That part of the story is the foundation, and not to be overlooked.

But the narrative in the documentary is as much about who was behind the camera and what the subject of the photographs and videos were. The combination is a fascinating story. The large body of work and the intrigue behind the images is what he felt compelled to share.

The mysterious woman who took the pictures and the why part of her story may forever remain a mystery.  

Here is the trailer giving you a sneak peek into what you’ll see. Please patiently wait out the ads and see the trailer. It’s worth it.

Her name was Vivian Maier and she worked as a nanny, but would be classified in today’s culture

as aNanny / Photographer.  The photodoc is making the circuit around the world and I  highly recommend seeing it if at all possible . It seems to  sell out everywhere it shows and the momentum and curiosity is growing with every viewing . There is a reason why.  I saw it and I’m still left with haunting images from her incredible body of work.

To me it begs the question about the lives we live.

We all have Public Lives where what is seen on the surface is what appears to be true.  Then comes the layer of Private Life . It’s played out behind closed doors. Our thoughts, concerns  and opinions of the world are shared with an intimate few. Family , friends and those that are given permission to know and see this layer of our lives. As human beings we struggle with which layers we want or need to share.

And then there is the Secret Life we live.  The parts of our life that no one knows about.  Maybe the thoughts and secrets we aren’t even prepared to share with our spouses, loved ones or close friends.

Vivian Mayer took amazing pictures.  She had a public life , a private life and a secret life.  We will forever more remain curious about all layers, and the society we lived in during the time she documented.  This is her story.

Yes she worked as a nanny to live and support herself, but she watched the world through the protected lens of her camera. The pictures she took spoke volumes.  While all the ‘experts’ weigh in with opinion on the quality of her photos and whether they are or were of comparison to some of the masters, her story and the images in the meantime sell out to audiences all over the world. We are mesmerized by her photos of her world during the time she was taking pictures and by her as an artist.  We hunger to know what she was thinking about her world as she quietly went about the business of documentary life around her.

She had the kind of camera where you looked down to the viewing lens to take the picture. She was able to capture an image without people knowing they were on stage.  No pose.  Just the authentic truth.  And of course historically this is such rich information about society and life during the time she was taking pictures in the 1950’s.  We thirst for information and real documentation in this raw unedited form.  No photoshop. Just the black and white of real life. Photojournalists in this day and age wouldn’t be able to come anywhere near their subjects like she did.

I was very moved by her pictures of our reality in that era.  She was so meticulous in her photo development and without a doubt you can see her artistic eye when she frames her shots.

She takes a mirrored picture with the image reflectively produced from the side mirror of an automobile . Layer within layer within layer.  What was she seeing in the world and how was it making her feel?  We will never know.   Having the human shield of the young children in her charge, she was able to go into parts of a city and take pictures otherwise not documented.  We now see these photos without the context of being able to ask about the back story. Questions unanswered.

And yet she lived alone.  Her photo work was never acknowledged for it’s incredible artistry.  By the sounds of it through this documentary that is the way she wanted it.  Or was it ? So interesting that post humously we are now more hungry than ever to know about her Private Life and her Secret Life.

That story will never be told.