Finding Vivian Maier

A guest post by Melanie Rothschild

I am always inspired by stories of  “secret” artists. Finding Vivian Maier is a remarkable and immensely satisfying documentary which tells about the discovery of a spectacular and prolific secret “street photographer” (over 100,000 photos found) who lived a lifelong modest existence as a nanny.

Vivian Maier self portrait

John Maloof, the film’s maker as well as the one who initially stumbled on the treasure trove of Maier’s work, is both extremely tender yet also frank about his discoveries of Maier’s staggeringly private world.

Maier apparently took up nannying because it afforded her the chance to spend her days out and about squiring kids around town where every moment was a photo op. The compelling mystery – her abundance of work coupled with her complete anonymity as a photographer – is essentially maddening to Maloof as well as most of those interviewed in the movie.

Early on in his discovery of Maier, Maloof contacted the Museum of Modern Art in New York about his finding but they weren’t interested. Maybe Maier herself reached out and was rejected by galleries in her own lifetime. Maybe her ideals about her work were so particular that she kept waiting until she got it “just right” before wanting to reveal her abundant talent. Or maybe she just enjoyed being private.

We’ll never know.

I kept finding myself vicariously relishing what it must have been like to set out each day in the streets of Chicago constantly immersed on the hunt for new photos to capture – kids in tow. Living as a nanny she wasn’t fettered by concerns about making the rent or having enough to eat. She was able to live a big portion of her life focused solely on her obsession to take pictures of her own choosing.

How many others like her are out there? And how many exist but may never have been discovered?

The story of Vivian Maier is a potent message about the power of the artist’s calling. It may just be that, for some, free reign with a private creative obsession trumps fame and fortune.


Melanie Rothschild is a self-taught artist whose elaborate interior accessories have been sold in stores throughout the United States including Neiman-Marcus, the shops at the Smithsonian Institution, the John Michael Kohler Arts Center and hundreds of others for almost two decades. Her work is shown in fine art galleries and has been licensed to Target. She considers moxie, an irreverent nature, and a respect for mistake-making to be the tools of her trade. Melanie has a master’s degree in the Study of Creativity and an undergrad degree in Anthropology. She is from and lives in Los Angeles. “Like” Melanie on Facebook today!

Click here to see more of Melanie’s artwork and a short preview of her documentary, MISTAKE.

U5666_ArtOfMistakes_finalC.inddMelanie’s book, The Art of Mistakes will be out in the fall of 2014 and is now available for pre-order from Amazon and Barnes and Noble.





Cover_U2959.inddUntil Melanie’s book is released, you might also enjoy reading about more artists in The Mixed-Media Artist by Seth Apter.

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