Finding Vivian Mayer: a life printed on photo negatives

vivian mayer

Nowadays it’s rather unusual to think about ‘developing a camera film’. Watching John Maloof and Charlie Siskel’s documentary Finding Vivian Mayer that action becomes incredibly contemporary and essential.

Thousands of photo negatives have been brought back to life a brilliant unknown talent, a mysterious nanny, an incredible photographer, people, cities, children, homeless.

What John Maloof discovered was an undeveloped photo negatives box, picked up at an auction for a modest payment. Maloof didn’t know that those photo negatives hid some stunning images taken on the streets of New York and Chicago from the 1950s to the present. All those photographies were never shown to anyone in the photographer’s lifetime until Maloof finally developed, catalogued and published them. He then decided to find out more about the unknown artist who has been compared with Henri Cartier-Bresson and Diane Arbus. Maloof and Siskel decided to transform in a film the research they have conducted on Vivian Maier’s photo negatives, trying to discover her life and her secrets.

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Familiar Ghosts – The Darkside (Warwick Thornton, 2013) Review

 “Man is the Storytelling Animal, and that in stories are his identity, his meaning, and his lifeblood.” Salman Rushdie – Luka and the Fire of Life

What makes a good ghost story? Why do we still remember that chilling and simple tale that our grandma told us as kids and forget instead the much more shocking and eye-catching stories that we see in horror films? As Warwick Thornton’s last docudrama The Darkside seems to suggest, the answer might lie in our personal and emotional connection with the narrators of such stories. Storytelling is a shared experience and while it’s easier to dismiss a cheesy horror films with a laugh and a good old “It’s just a movie”, things are not so easy when you can see a glimpse of truth in the eyes of the person telling that story. Good ghost stories come from a weird liminal space, where familiarity clashes with the uncanny and that’s where The Darkside takes us to share thirteen stories of Australian Indigenous ghosts.

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