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Vivian Maier Developed – Ann Marks

Vivian Maier Developed, How Life Events Informed Her Personality, Perspective and Photography.
November 12, 2016, researcher Ann Marks delivered a fascinating look into the genealogy and life of Vivian Maier, the elusive Chicago nanny whose street photography continues to capture the attention of the public and the art world, during a lecture broadcast at Lumière via Skype. Marks shared new insights and previously unknown facts about Maier during this public event.
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Ann Marks, a retired business executive with 30 years of experience in marketing at Kraft General Foods, American Express and The Wall Street Journal, became interested in Maier after watching the documentary, Finding Vivian Maier. A devotee of mysteries and challenges, Marks set out, guided by her curiosity and research skills, to sift through census, court and government records to reveal more of Maier’s past.
Ann Marks

Ann Marks

Despite all the attention devoted to Maier, even the basic facts of her heritage were murky. Maier, who died in 2009, said little about her background and her work as a photographer to her friends and employers during her life. Due in part to Marks research, now it is public knowledge that Vivian Maier was born into a deeply unhappy and neglectful family. Her parents divorced early in her childhood, which led to her father’s disappearance from the family. Vivian and her brother Charles, who was also called Karl, were apparently not given much affection or even basic care from their mother.
Eugenie Jaussaud, Maier’s maternal grandmother, was an island of love and support for her granddaughter. Jaussaud, an immigrant from the French Alps, was employed as a cook for some of New York’s most socially prominent families. Through her work in these grand houses, Vivian was able to glimpse a larger world, though as the grandchild of a servant, she knew that she did not truly belong in this elite world. Jaussaud, who was by all accounts an excellent cook, also supported the Maier family financially through her earnings.
“I found it significant that Vivian started her photography when her grandmother died, severing her last connection to a close relative. I believe this was a trigger for her need to photograph—to capture pieces of life and call them her own for her own sense of identity,“ Marks said in a recent interview.
Perhaps the most significant discovery brought to light by Marks are the government records pertaining to Vivian’s estranged brother, Karl Maier, who was a drug addict and was later diagnosed with schizophrenia. “It had been over a year since the film was produced but there were no new discoveries. At the time, Cook County was looking for Vivian’s brother as he was the designated heir to her estate. I said to myself, ‘I bet I can find him’ and I did,” Marks said. Here she elaborates further:
The most interesting find by far was Vivian’s brother’s file from his three years at the Coxsackie Vocational detention center that I found in the New York Archives in Albany. There were 100 pages about his life including letters from every member of the family and detailed reports on his domestic situation. From this I gleaned an understanding of the family relationships and each member’s personality using their own words. The woman I believe had the most positive influence on Vivian’s life was her grandmother Eugenie Jaussaud. She worked as a cook for the richest families in American and at one point wrote to her grandson from the Vanderbilt estate in Palm Beach, addressing the envelope ‘Coxsackie Vacational.’ She comes across as wise, responsible and charming. When she died in 1948, Eugenie left Vivian money that she used to buy her first camera.
Because her research enabled Marks to gain a deeper understanding of Maier, she takes issue with the often repeated idea that Maier never showed her work to others because she was so private.
“She took pictures because she needed to take pictures for herself. That said, indications are that she thought her work was strong, but even if she wanted to come forth as an artist she didn’t have the skills, means, or relationships to do so. Many have taken this to mean that Vivian Maier was so private that she wouldn’t have wanted her work to be shown. I strongly disagree with this assessment. Vivian wasn’t private, she was secretive because she wanted to hide her sordid family background. She was actually extroverted and opinionated,” Marks said. “She was also obsessed with celebrity, and she chased them like paparazzi do today. I believe she would have been thrilled by the recognition and fame her work has achieved.”
All of Ann Marks’ research on Vivian Maier, can be found on her web site: Vivian Maier Developed
To see more of Vivian Maier’s work visit her Lumière artist page,
Or the exhibition page, Vivian Maier A Deeper Look.
Posted in: Lectures, What's New

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