It’s clear, too, that Maier favored black-and-white film at the time, given not just the relatively small amount of color film she shot in comparison, but the extreme slowness of early Kodachrome film that made its use especially risky. Given that, it’s curious that she would have shot so much of it. In looking at those photographs, it’s almost as if she’s attempting to understand the genre in a new format—that 35-millimeter rectangle—with blur and grain appearing in her work in ways they hadn’t previously. Her new pursuit may have been pure curiosity or a matter of necessity, but either way, her work changes significantly as she interacts with a new style of composition. But she also sees her signature darkness in whatever she’s photographing, be it the grim stares of young boys at summer camp, a woman digging in a bright-pink trash can, or a lone glove in a bright-green trash can.
Maier’s massive collection of undeveloped, unprinted negatives also continues to baffle. It’s not as though Maier didn’t fancy herself a good photographer—Finding Vivian Maier reveals she had contacted a printer in France to produce some of her images, and she likely had a portfolio of images to present when she was in her twenties living in New York—but it’s possible that time, finances, and even itinerancy and her health caught up to her. At at least one point during the 30-year period in which Maier’s color images were made, she was out of work, homeless, and struggling with mental health issues, as Finding Vivian Maier speculates. It’s possible that without money or space to develop, or even the wherewithal to develop her images, they lavished until Maloof discovered them years later.