“I’m sort of a spy,” Vivian Maier once told a man who asked her what she did. Maier died in poverty and obscurity in 2009 after working as a nanny most of her life, but, in a way, she was also a spy. A self-trained and prolific street photographer, Maier shot thousands of rolls of film over five decades, all of which might have been lost if John Maloof hadn’t bought a box containing hundreds of them at a storage auction in 2007 for $380. His struggle to piece together her life and oeuvre, and to retroactively write her into the photography canon, is the subject of Finding Vivian Maier, a new documentary he co-directed with Charlie Siskel.


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