Chips and Mayonnaise – Part 1

 

 

We met them near a van selling chips – or as the Americans call them, French fries.

Bram and Kristin. They were on a bike trip and so were we.

Behind the van was a long, wide canal. On both sides of the canal were bike trails. Now and then, barges passed, sending waves of backwash slapping against the steep banks.

They were a similar age to us – late 50’s. Kristin had shoulder length blond hair (natural, with a few stands of grey) and Bram had a crop of black hair and a boyish face. Each of them were in good shape.

Strangers brought together by Belgium’s legendary chips. And mayonnaise, of course.

Kristin and Bram and Anya and I sitting on the same bench seat eating chips and dunking them in mayonnaise on a warm day.

 

Belgium’s chips were famous. Or perhaps better said, Flanders’ chips were famous.

Foreigners often blurred the distinction between the Dutch speaking Flemish and the French speaking Walloons. Perhaps one was only conversant with the true dimensions of that division when one spoke Dutch and French – and visited the regions where one of the languages was dominant, as Anya and I had done.

Belgium?

In reality: two different countries in one. A geographical and cultural schism: the Flemish in the north, the Walloons in the south. We went bike riding in the north, which was flat like The Netherlands, and we went walking in the south, beautiful hill country dotted with French chateaus.

Whilst the Flemish speak Dutch – or what is officially called ‘Nederlands’ – the accent is completely different (it took me a long time before I could understand Flemish, especially how it was spoken in the rural areas). That the Flemish accent is so different to the Dutch is symptomatic of a people with a different culture, history and mentality.

 

I had no problem in understanding Bram and Kristin.

In hindsight, I think it’s because they were educated and travelled regularly; they spoke clearly, and their accent was mild.

Not only could I understand their Flemish – it was me who got the ball rolling so to speak and ensured that our conversation quickly moved beyond the stage of small talk. We met as strangers and departed as friends. 

It happened when I asked them about the jets.

Asked and complained at the same time, I might add.

Those fucking jets!

Normally when we rode to Flanders, we rarely heard jets flying overhead. But this time, as soon as we crossed the Dutch border, they were there every day. The noise was deafening. It defeated the whole purpose of going on a bike trip, leastways our idea of a bike trip.

Irrespective of where we went, we were always careful to plan a trip through forests and rural areas – and when possible, to avoid the towns and big cities. Peace and quiet was what we sought. Yet this time, no matter where we were, we were accompanied by the awful, ear-splitting sound of jets.

The noise irritated me immensely – to put it mildly.

Bram and Kristin laughed. The jets, they explained, were practising for the approaching Belgium Independence Day celebrations.

Belgium’s Independence Day was a long established ritual dating from the 19th century. In the past, most of the area now designated as Belgium was a part of The Netherlands. In the early 19th century, the Catholic Flemish joined the Catholic French and fought to push the Dutch out and form a new nation called Belgium. They did not want to be governed by a Protestant dominated nation (although there was a large population of Catholics in The Netherlands, especially in the south).

I knew a bit about the history of Belgium and to say that I was sceptical about its celebrating an Independence Day was an understatement. From its very inception, Belgium was a project beset by deep divisions, the main one being between the Dutch speakers and the French. Religion, it transpired, didn’t prove to be much of a bond. Belgium was dominated by the French language: Dutch could not be taught in the schools or used in any kind of official institution including the bureaucracy, the army, and parliament. The economy played an important role in reinforcing the natural chauvinism of the French speakers. In the 19th century, and well into the 20th, Belgium was one of the most industrialised countries in Europe. Extensive reserves of coal went hand in hand with the development of iron smelters and factories. If Britain was the ‘workshop of the world’, then Belgium wasn’t far behind it. The capitalist class controlling this economy were mostly French speakers or Flemish businessmen who spoke French (indeed, for any Flemish person to get ahead in Belgium, speaking, reading and writing French was a must). In turn, the working class Flemish, who laboured long days in the mines and factories, were subjected to a toxic mix of discrimination based upon class as well as ethnicity.

It took the Flemish almost a century to ensure that their language was accorded the same rights as the French. In the meantime, another change unfolded; Flanders, once a poor area largely controlled by Walloon capitalists, became far more prosperous than Wallonia. It was this superior economic position which contributed to the surge of Flemish self -assertion which arose during the last decades of the 20th century. Today, this self- assertion is conspicuously represented by the so-called ‘Flemish League’ (Vlaamse Blok) – a right wing Flemish political party which wants an independent Flanders or at the very least, an autonomous region.

 

I guess I was in a mood to stir up a discussion.

The mention of Belgium’s ‘Independence Day’ got me going.

Independence? I said, ‘for whom? Not for the Flemish, that’s for sure. I’m not exactly enthusiastic about the Flemish League, but as far their push for autonomy goes, I can certainly understand that.’

Bram and Kristin’s reaction to my rather provocative take on Belgium’s Independence Day was relaxed.

Kristin: ‘Not many people attach much importance to Independence Day. It’s a ritual, a day off work and a chance to take the kids to a spectacle with fireworks and a procession. The King and Queen are there too -‘

Bram: ‘- and the jets! Don’t forget them!’

Kristin:’ History’s history. You can go back in time and you can find all sorts of injustices –‘

Bram: ‘- and suffering, Belgium unlike The Netherlands was occupied twice by the Germans, First and Second World War’

Me: ‘That doesn’t change the bitter reality of French domination in what was supposed to be a multilingual state, a partnership if you like.’

Anya weighed in support of Bram and Kristin. It was now 3 against 1:

‘Where does this grievance politics start and end? This is Europe. Everywhere you look there’s divisions. The Flemish go independent and then what? Would the EU recognise this tiny state? Of course it wouldn’t, otherwise the rest of Europe would disintegrate.’

Kristin: ‘Right. Every little community with its own customs and language would want its own state.’
Anya: ‘There’s s the Basques and Catalonians in Spain, the Northern Italians in Italy, the Welsh and Scots in the U.K., the Hungarians in Romania…..it’s endless.’

Bram: ‘If you look at the history of Europe, it’s an ongoing struggle between chaos and stability. That’s why in the past a lot of people supported dictatorial regimes, empires …. when democracy was tried, like in 1848, it led to upheaval…the liberals and the socialists and the ethnic minorities were at loggerheads, it was a mess!’

Kristin: ‘Everyone has complaints about the EU and a lot of these are legitimate. But no arrangement is perfect. People seem to think that if the nation states get more autonomy from the EU behemoth, they’ll be better off. It’s an illusion -‘

Bram: ‘And would the same nation states which want more autonomy look favourably upon the communities within their borders that also want more autonomy? I don’t think so. There’s an awful lot of hypocrisy in this nationalism business – ‘

Kristin: It’s a choice like you said Bram, between stability and chaos. Nationalism and regional chauvinism are the biggest threats confronting Europe today.’

Kristin: ‘The funny thing is, even though the Flemish and the Walloons are constantly bickering over language and culture, they would miss each other if Belgium was ever dismantled.’

Bram: ‘The Flemish have got nothing to complain about. They’re economically much better off than the French speakers in the south. You should see some of the cities there…really depressing…. high unemployment, decrepit infrastructure. How would autonomy improve the lot of the Flemish? It wouldn’t.’

 

Stir up a discussion?

I certainly did that alright. No one agreed with me and I had to admit, after listening to the other three people vigorously disagreeing with me, my original opinion was looking dubious.

Still, I had managed to cut the ice; to break through the indifference which strangers adopt when they meet – and which ensures that when they part the ways, they are still strangers.

That didn’t happen here. Thanks to me and my big mouth.

In hindsight, our debate on that warm afternoon was very much a European one. It could not have occurred in any other part of the world. The issues which surfaced, the disagreements, the questions – was an integral part of what it meant to be European. And if the very notion of a European identity was at best, a slippery one, leastways now people talked about the issues. In the past they had killed one another on battlefields and in death camps.

If you pondered just how look it had taken us (and I counted myself as a European) to get to this point then you had to take the long view about events in notoriously unstable regions of the world today including the Middle East and Africa. It was going to take time, a lot of time, before people there would one day be able sit down on a park bench and eat together and do no more than agree to disagree.

A good hour later, our discussion ended when Bram said: ‘It’s been nice to talking to you people, but we better get back on our bikes, we’ve still got a way to go before we reach our hotel.’

We had also had a way to go too – to reach a room rented out by a family.

Before we parted the ways, Kristin invited us to stay with them. They were near the end of their bike trip and due home in a few days. We wrote down their address.

A week later we phoned them up and rode over to their place.

We were in for a surprise.

 

Next blog: Chips and Mayonnaise Part 2

https://serioustravelblog.com/2017/11/05/chips-and-mayonnaise-part-2/

 

 

 

 

Chips and Mayonnaise – Part 2

‘The Flemish have got nothing to complain about. They’re economically much better off than the French speakers in the south….How would autonomy improve the lot of the Flemish?’

 

When Anya and I rode our bikes up to the high, wrought-iron gates of a mansion, I wondered what was going on.

This couldn’t possibly be the right place, I told her.

One glimpse through the gates underlined the point: a long drive of white gravel, a wide grassed area either side it bordered by meticulously tended gardens and in the distance, backed against old, tall trees – a series of white, rectangular structures, half concrete and half glass. Even from behind the gates you could see stair cases seemingly suspended in mid-air, lamps suspended from high ceilings, paintings on walls, rooms with statues and ultra-modern furnishings. Outside, on the upper levels, there were long glass balconies. This wasn’t a house, a home; it was a modernist palace, a place of light, space, perfection – and money, vast amounts of money.

Parked in the drive was a top of the range BMW and a Volvo.

No, this couldn’t be the place. We’d got something wrong.

 

On one of the high brick pillars either side of the gate was an intercom and beneath it, a brass plate bearing the names ‘B. and K. Vermeulen’.

This was the place alright.

Anya pressed the button on the intercom – and a woman’s voice – answered.

It was Kristin.

There was an audible ‘click’ and the massive gates swung open and we pushed our bikes over the white gravel.

I felt as if we were entering a strange land. Which we were.

The journey up the drive, pushing our heavily laden bikes over what seemed like an interminable stretch of deep gravel, seemed to last forever. We had a long day behind us battling against strong headwinds.

We came to the large garage where the two cars were parked.

‘I’ve spent the afternoon working in the garden’ she explained.

She spoke softly, in something just above a whisper.

Only later did we realise she was almost as tired as we were.

 

She led us into the garage and indicated an area off to the right where we could leave our bikes and said: ‘You can get your stuff out now if you like and I’ll show you to your room.’

As we followed Kristin and entered the house, I was expecting to be met by space and light. Instead we found ourselves in a circular area illuminated by lights recessed into the ceiling; it was a kind of intersection which offered access to three passages going in different directions. On our right was a long wide staircase. Near the base of the staircase was a polished wooden counter and behind it a coffee machine, an electric jug, glasses, a range of teas and coffees, and an inbuilt fridge; further back, deeper in the recess was a toilet and bathroom. Kristin showed us these before leading us up the staircase. Each step was lined with carpet. There was a balustrade either side. At the top of the stairs, there was a wide passage and a number of doors; we could have been in a hotel.

She opened one of the doors on the left and we followed her inside, hot, sweaty, and struggling with our plastic bags.

As soon as we entered the room, we were taken aback.

The ceiling was a good 4 metres high. There was a low, wide bed on a wooden frame – a futon – a chest of drawers and a few cupboards. It was disarmingly simple and nowhere near as luxurious as one might have expected in a place like this.

The view was the luxury item.

The wall opposite the doorway consisted mostly of glass. There was a view of trees; there were long trunks and a profusion of dark green leaves.

In reaction to our expressions of surprise and admiration, Kristin explained:

‘We love trees…it’s one of the reasons we chose this place to build our house….’

Trees were a passion for Bram and Kristin it seemed. They’d spent time in Sweden staying in special holiday homes constructed in the middle of forests.

Kristin talked about ‘tree holidays’.

Tree holidays?

I’d heard of elite kinds of eco-travel, but ‘tree holidays’ was a new one to me.

No doubt they were very expensive.

 

We put our panier bags down next to the bed and followed Kristin downstairs.

She wanted to show us where we would have breakfast next morning.

This was quite a journey, and being so tired, we had to make quite an effort to remember the way there.

After descending the stairs, we turned into a passage on our right, then shortly afterwards followed a short flight of stairs on our left and then followed another passage on our right until we came to a long wide room divided into two separate areas; in the first area, there were paintings and sculptures and works of art, all of it modern; in the centre of this area were two couches and a coffee table. Further on, in the next area, was a room with full length window on two sides and a view of a tended gardens, trees and a waterfall; in the middle of this area was a large, heavy wooden table and four chairs. I was battling to make the connection between the two people we had met next to the van selling chips and mayonnaise – and dressed in loose, baggy clothes – and this outrageous display of opulence.

Kristin asked us if we wanted a drink and we said we did, although really, we didn’t, we just wanted to unpack our stuff and have a shower. We drank green tea at the wooden table and chatted with Kristin; sometimes it was difficult to keep our eyes from straying into the garden and the waterfall and the pond; it was just so green and manicured and quite lovely.

I got the impression that Kristin was at a bit at a loose end.

Bram was a lawyer; he ran a legal firm employing 20 people. He was successful and obviously making an awful lot of money. Kristin was learning Italian; she spent a lot of time working in the garden; she was involved in a church based organisation devoted to assistance projects in Africa.

 

That evening, I went to sleep at about 8 pm.

Anya stayed up, reading.

When I woke up at 2 am, Anya was deep in sleep.

The trees were lit by a half moon. It was an incredible sight.

I lay there staring, feeling as if I was on a raft floating through the night. At one point, I saw something fly passed: an owl or a bat.

I was conscious of experiencing something quite unique, something reserved for those with lots of money.

 

My thoughts drifted.

I thought about wealth.

Most people envied the super-rich – which is why the lives of the super-rich occupied the centre stage of so many films and best-selling pulp fiction novels not to mention the newspapers and gossip magazines.

Speaking for myself, the super- rich didn’t interest me, let alone incite envy. At one level of my thinking, which I suppose could be described as ‘political’, I could never follow the logic of any kind of social economic arrangement where an elite lived in opulence whilst a great mass of people at the other end of society lived in deprivation. The nations I was familiar with, which formed a blueprint for ‘good societies’ – I mean to the extent that a ‘good society’ was attainable – were The Netherlands and Denmark. I believed in an egalitarian version of a capitalist society based on an extensive welfare state combined with a range of liberal freedoms.

Beyond this political level, was a deeper philosophical one. I didn’t envy the super rich because I didn’t want to live their lives. I shouldn’t say that I was ‘content’ or ‘happy’ with my own life (happiness, as far as I could see, was a slippery concept) so much as inspired to live my life; aware of being on a journey and keen to continue it. This part of my psychology had its origins in the years that Anya and I had spent travelling, with all our possessions on our backs. I believed in what may be loosely described as the simple life, a life with as few material attachments as possible; I guess this was my own kind of Buddhism, albeit one based upon a life of constantly going somewhere rather than living in a monastery or a cave. It was only by staying clear of attachments, that one was free, truly free, to keep moving, changing one’s place of residence and experiencing an interesting and intense life. At the same time, it was undeniably true that one needed money to be free; without it, there was no freedom at all. It was a matter of finding a balance.

It was amazing to lie there in bed and peer into the depths of a night forest and easy to see the attraction of a spending time in a tree house.

I’d never experienced anything like this before, which was why I was experiencing it now so intensely.

But what if I lived here and saw it every night?

How long would it take before it lost its magic and became almost mundane?

 

By the time I woke the following morning – at 7.30, it was time to get ready and go for breakfast.
We had arranged to have breakfast at 8.

Finding our way to the dining area was a trial.

We took a few wrong turnings and in the process, got an inkling of how little of this enormous house we had seen. Out there somewhere was far more house.

What did they do with all this space? Why did they need it?

What was the point of it?

To own a place like this – and all the possessions inside it – seemed to me like having a ball and chain permanently fastened to your ankle.

 

Finally, we got there (and I realised too that there must have been at least one other dining area in the house somewhere).

When we walked into the dining area, I did a double-take.

Bram was wearing a dark blue suit and tie; Kristin was wearing an expensive dress and wearing a necklace and ear rings. It was a Saturday morning.

 

They were quick to explain: they had to leave to go to a funeral later in the morning.

Initially the conversation was hesitant, but it didn’t take long before it became lively and voluble – and furthermore, lasted for nearly 3 hours. Politics didn’t even get a passing mention.

Bram and Kristin asked us about how long we had been riding together. We normally don’t make a point of speaking about ourselves but Bram and Kristin kept asking questions and in between many other subjects popping during our conversation, they returned to it.

The crux of what we told them was this:

We began riding in The Netherlands in 1980 (and got married during a bike ride around The Netherlands and Flanders); thereafter didn’t do much riding, besides a short stint in China in the early 1990’s. Most of time, over the course of around 20 years, we went trekking in the Indian Himalaya following villagers’ traditional trails and carrying all our own supplies. When the trails began to vanish with the Indian government filling the mountains with roads and the dramatic increase in organised tourism, we went back to bike riding: between 2003 – 06 we did long bike rides over the back roads of South Australia and Victoria, taking along our tent, sleeping bags as well as water and supplies: the bike trips in Australia were a continuation of trekking in the Indian Himalaya as it were. In later years, during our stays in The Netherlands, we did long bike rides in The Netherlands, Flanders, Germany and Denmark.

It was when we asked Bram and Kristin about their bike riding experiences that they came alive, became different people.

 

Bram and Kristin, reliving magic moments of their lives.

Every year, Bram took a month off work and he and Kristin went on bike riding trips. The same people who could afford to go anywhere in the world and in style – who could afford to take a few days off and fly to tree house in Sweden – went bike riding together. They had done bike trips in many different countries including Turkey, Italy, Spain, Germany, Denmark, and of course, Flanders and The Netherlands. This year they were set to go to France.

They told stories about the adventures and the hardships they had experienced in all sorts of situations and countries and as they talked, I noticed a transformation occurring between Bram and Kristin. They were full of stories about their trips and in the telling of these stories, each of them became very enthusiastic, like two teenagers. They recounted their experiences and periodically looked at each other as if it was for the first time. Kristin underwent a remarkable metamorphosis from the woman I had met on the afternoon previous; she laughed and joked and couldn’t get the words out of her mouth fast enough. As for Bram; it was hard to imagine him as a man in his early 60’s running business employing 20 people. He was like a boy talking about a great film he had seen or an exciting book he had read.

Up until we had breakfast with Bram and Kristin that morning I had kept wondering to myself: why in the world would two people living in such opulence want to put up two unknown bike riders, hailing from the opposite end of the social economic break-down, for the night?

Now I knew: because it gave them the chance to relive precious moments of their lives and furthermore, to build on the hope that there would be more like it.

After 30 years of marriage and three children and the long years of hard work that went into building up a business, Bram and Kristin, their lives too often lived apart, in separate hemispheres, had found a means of reconciliation and renewal. The one month a year reminded them how much they loved each other.

 

Just before Bram and Kristin left to attend the funeral, Bram said:

‘Years ago, when I first started out, I worked alone, from home. We were living in the outskirts of Antwerp. The work started coming in and I needed to employ others to help me. We had an extension built on to our house. Kristin did a lot of the administrative work. We had 3 children and we wanted to be close to them, to share everything together, work and family. But I kept getting more work and eventually I had to get a proper business premises. We bought land in a rural area and had this house built. Kristin stopped working and devoted her life to raising the kids. We became a conventional couple.

I never thought I would one day be running a business. I wasn’t ambitious. I wanted to earn enough to support my family. One thing led to another. There wasn’t much choice in it you see. In business, you either grow or you go broke. If you refuse work, the clients go elsewhere. I like what I am doing. I enjoy the work. But I’m getting on. I don’t want to work until I’m dead.

The funeral we are going to this morning is for a good friend who was a couple of years younger than us. He had all sorts of plans about what he was going to do when he was retired. He never made it. I don’t want to do that. I know that its time to move on. What then? What do I do with myself? I’ve always worked. The kids have grown up and got careers and families. We don’t need this place anymore. It too big. We’ll sell it and downsize.

I want to ride my bike. That’s a start. I want to find countries in the world where Kirstin and I can ride our bikes.

Australia sounds good. Maybe we’ll see you two sometime.’

Vivian

 

One night in a small hotel in Flanders, exhausted after a long bike ride, I turned on the TV and began surfing channels – not because I expected to find anything worth watching, but rather, because I was too tired to read.

TV!

Irrespective of which country you’re in these days, TV is rubbish: Game shows (everyone laughing), soaps, ‘reality’ TV, blitz advertising.

No wonder Netflix has become so popular.

Turning on the TV that evening was an act of desperation. I was in an almost catatonic state and had time on my hands – that is, until I could justify to myself crawling into bed and passing out.

I surfed channels a while, and then –

On one channel, I saw a black and white photo on the screen – and it caught my attention immediately.

It was a great photo – of homeless poor blacks somewhere in a big city in America.

The photo clearly dated from some time in the past, late 1950’s/1960’s, was my guess.

Then came more black and white photos, equally as incredible. More scenes from an America from a few decades ago.

There I was, exhausted after a long bike ride, sitting in a hotel room surfing the TV and then suddenly finding myself wide awake as a series of utterly mesmerising black and white photos appeared before me.

I wondered who the photographer was.

In time, I learnt that her name was Vivian Maier.

I had never heard of her.

Yet she had worked for many years, from the 1950’s until the late 1980’s.

She had taken thousands of photos.

 

As with any kind of art, tastes differ when it comes to photography.

What one person might consider brilliant, another person might dislike.

I had very definite ideas about photography and this was especially so with respect to black and white photography. During the 1980’s, I spent a lot of time in a dark room developing and printing black and white photos which I had taken during trips to India and China. I enlarged the photos and framed them and held exhibitions. During that time, I looked at a lot of black and white photos taken by recognised ‘greats’ including Capa, Adams, Walker Evans, Man Ray, Cartier- Bresson and McCullin. These are just a few of the names which I can remember; there were many other, less well-known, photographers whose work I admired but whose names I’ve forgotten.

The one thing which has remained from my years of immersion in the world of black and white photography is the simple conviction that a good black and white photograph has an artistic power which colour photography can never match.

And looking at the photos of Vivian Maier, I knew I was looking at a great black and white photographer.

 

How was it possible, I wondered, that I’d never heard of her and never seen any of her work during the time I was a black and white photography fanatic?

I turned the volume up and listened carefully to the Flemish (which is the same as Dutch, but is spoken with a very different accent).

In time, the explanation to this puzzle emerged.

It was as incredible as her photographs.

Vivian Maier never made any attempt to exhibit or publicise her work.

She took photos, lots and lots of them, and stored them away in suitcases.

Over the years, the suitcases piled up.

She knew that she was taking brilliant photos. Yet incredibly, she felt no need to win any kind of recognition.

I was flabbergasted at the very idea of it.

I wanted to know more about this extraordinary, unknown genius.

There was no chance I was going to change the channel.

 

The Flemish programme was based upon on an American documentary which was made years after Maier’s death (it can be downloaded from the net). It was based on interviews with people who had known her and or at least, observed her from close-up. She had few friends and wasn’t motivated to make any. Her great obsession was privacy.

A good part of the documentary relied upon interviews with people who had employed Maier – or been raised by her. These interviews were alternately moving and amusing. They were, by the standards of the contemporary media, long ones, giving people the time to reminisce, to bare their souls; a stark contrast with the cut and paste so commonplace in the media today.

This was a quality documentary.

 

Vivian Maier was an intelligent, eccentric and reclusive woman. The word ‘eccentric’ doesn’t adequately capture her sheer un-conventionality, her strangeness, and her individuality. She was one of those people who in her own private way redefined the idea of what it means to be a human being and how to live a life.

Yet all of this only came to light after she died and her photos and negatives came to light as it were.
Born into a poor French immigrant family and raised in poverty, she never tried to ascend the socio-economic ladder and ‘better herself’. Her interest in material possessions extended as far a Rolleiflex camera and film. She worked as a child minder for middle class Americans; children were the only human beings she could relate to, although another consideration for her was this was a job which left her with plenty of free time. It was a better alternative to working in factories.

If at any point she had allowed others to view her photos, she would have become a recognised artist and would have been able to live a better and more comfortable life – yet mysteriously she never seems to have considered this option.

Vivian Maier had no interest in conventional ideas of success.

She chose for anonymity.

She lived alone in small apartments with a heavy security lock on the door. When required to fill in her name on official documents, she often wrote the wrong name or deliberately misspelt it; when people asked her what she did for a living, she told them she was a spy – something which might have got her into trouble during the Cold War when America was paranoid of traitors and spies.

Yet her description of herself as a ‘spy’ was uncannily prescient.

Vivian Maier was indeed a kind of spy: someone moving around incognito, chronicling the human condition in all its strange splendour, moving moments, and intense ugliness. This after all is the essence of great black and white photographers, this portrayal, in stark and moving ways, of the human condition; this chronicling of life and history through powerful images which break through our natural tendency towards indifference.

And as far as this chronicling of the human condition went, Vivian Maier used other means besides her Rolleiflex. She collected newspapers – thousands of them. She knew what was going on politically and she knew about the widespread reality of poverty and hardship – the shadow side of the American Dream.

Vivian Maier was a pioneer – a feminist, an individualist, a progressive – as well as a great artist.

And seeing the documentary about her was a rare find on a TV system with endless choices as far as the number of channels went – but precious few when it came to content.

http://www.vivianmaier.com