These are the stories of women. Women that took different paths. Like salmon swimming upstream they fought to live their lives against the current of societal expectations. Some secretly and some out in plain sight.
Finding Vivian Maier
In 2009 a woman passed away in lonely destitution. While never discussing her photography she took approximately 100,000 photos while working as a nanny. Her negatives were found after her death by a young man who purchased them in an auction. Realizing what he had found, and even to his novice eye, he spotted their timelessness and quality. He researched and found the others who had bought parts of her vast collection and purchased them. He then found a way to show them to the world.
She never discussed her photography or photos with anyone, though because of her voracity, everyone knew she took them. There is one letter to a printer in France where her mother was from, discussing printing some of her work. She states in a quiet way that she felt her work was good, and broaches the idea of printing them, yet never does.
Sadly her tale ends with a crumble into mental illness. But I refuse to let it sully her accomplishments. She lives on in an amazing body of work that now is seeing the light of day.
51 Birch Street
The story starts when the documentarian’s mother passes away suddenly after 54 years of being married to his father. To the shock of his family his father marries his former secretary less than 90 days after his wife dies. In trying to deal with this turn of events, he starts to read through his mother’s meticulously kept daily diary. He finds out more about both of his parents than he ever planned on..
The line that really killed me in her diary was a revelation that his mother wrote of one night after running into Kitty, the secretary, in passing. I paraphrase, “Kitty is very sweet, and honestly I wonder if she is the type of woman that Mike [the husband] should have married. She is simple and sweet, non-challenging, and perhaps what he should have wanted, other that someone like me who has always been too much, too emotional, too smart, too much woman.”
She was trapped by her time, by the ideas of who she was supposed to be, of having to fit into parameters that were too confining for her. Of course she was miserable, and kept her husband miserable too. If only this woman had the opportunities that I had to actually find a partner that accepted the woman that she was, or moreso had been born in a time when the expectation wasn’t that you had to marry and try and live a life that you were unsuited for.
Lastly The Woodmans
This documentary is a wonderful insight to two women’s lives in the mix of the story of their whole family. The mother, who created her own version of matrimony and parenthood, a wife and mother who never stopped being an artist, in a family of artists. And the daughter she raised, a wonderful artist in her own right who passed too young by her own hand.