Dai tuoi occhi solamente
Original title: From Your Eyes, Only from Them
“This young author is an exceptional storyteller” – Sandra Petrignani
The story of the woman destined to become one of the greatest photographers of the 20th century: Vivian Maier
New York, 1954, an anonymous young woman, not particularly elegant, with short hair and an imposing figure, accepts a job as a nanny with a Southampton family. Her name is Vivian, she is half-French and her quirks immediately catch the eye of her employers: Vivian asks for a strong lock for her room and never goes out without the inseparable Rolleiflex camera. The children find her kind and extravagant, and Vivian reciprocates their affection by taking them out around town with her, while she photographs men lying on the floor, elderly people sleeping on the bus, beggars, people of colour and also, and especially, children.
Vivian seems to pay particular attention to anyone on the margins and the different. In fact, through photography, she tries to exorcise and reconstruct a childhood scarred by numerous traumas. Diotallevi mixes brilliantly fiction and truth: her parents’ separation; the years spent in Provence France with her irascible mother Marie, a woman incapable of showing love; the return to New York and the tense relationship with her violent brother Karl. She progressively closes in herself until she finds, in the shots on her Reflex camera, the only way to voice a pain that has been silent for too long. Vivian has made the solitude of her simple and normal life a shield against the world.
This shabby nanny’s clothes hide one of the most surprising talents of twentieth century street-photography: Vivian Maier. But the reader realises this only at the end of the book. Indecipherable, wary and misunderstood, she had taken thousands of photographs without ever developing them. Vivian Maier died without anyone knowing anything about her genius, at the age of 83, in 2009, alone, penniless and without fame. Diotallevi reconstructs Vivian’s life based on the (few) documents found in a cellar after her death and on sections of narration so realistic that the reader can’t tell the difference between truth and fiction, creating a warm, intense and engaging novel full of emotions which establishes Vivan’s profound humanity.
- Winner of the 2015 Premio Neri Pozza