What follows is a brief look at the chart of Vivian Maier, subject of a recent documentary, taken from the pages of ECLIPSE.
I heard and saw mentions of her, bits and pieces: amazing photos. dead now. a nanny. walked around Chicago for years, taking photos. Nobody noticed. And then I caught ‘Finding Vivian Maier’, a documentary, on HBO. I was prepared to witness some great photos, and perhaps the sadness of a life not lived to as full an extent, or as widely celebrated, as it might‘ve been. What I saw instead was a portrait of a woman who had been seen as mysterious largely because she was both exceptionally private and thoroughly estranged from any family, who preferred the company of children (whom she often bullied) to that of adults, and with a background involving time spent in the village of her mother’s birth in France that had some acquaintances privately calling her accent phony.
I admit I’ve had a very difficult time writing about Maier, for as intriguing as it is to learn about a newly-revealed talent, Maier as an individual seems to have been difficult, and often unpleasant. By the last third of the documentary I found myself looking away at least as much as actually watching, not out of disinterest, but out of the sense that she was a human being who had inflicted pain on her charges, with the obvious inference that this was because she lacked the Self-awareness to separate her own behavior from the pain that had been inflicted on her—a nasty revelation about the doc’s subject, to be sure, and one I felt ambivalent about: did her faults as a human being detract from the body of work she left behind? Ideally, in my view, the work should speak for itself, but when the life seems to provide such a telling frame for the work, one that may be in stark contrast to what is produced while still holding the reflection of it, it may be unfair to look at one without the other, if only because one would not exist without the other.
With no birth time, we have no Houses, Ascendant, or Midheaven, and so Maier (1 February 1926 ntk New York NY USA) remains more mysterious than not; however, an Aquarius Sun sextile Sedna, trine Pallas, quincunx Pluto, and opposed Black Moon Lilith suggests an instinctive urge to hide from (and sometimes to battle) what may have felt like destructive, even vindictive, external forces. She may have seen confrontation (the opposition) as the only wise response to the anger or darkness or manipulative (to her) behavior of others (Black Moon Lilith, disowned, seen as ‘the Other’ through opposition), with the need to continually adjust the power expression/ situation (Pluto qnx) just the smart thing to do (Pallas trine).
The Sun is in an interesting spot: it sits more than 9 degrees from retrograde Venus, which suggests to me the potential rejection of the Venusian facets of Beingness; it’s like a statement, “I’m not beautiful, I don’t have money, relationships and Love are not ‘me’” (via the retro status) but if we had a birth time we would have Houses, and so see how the Art of photography was accepted as ‘hers’ when the other Venus qualities seem not to have been—and yet, we need to look no farther than the Ceres-Neptune opposition to Venus to find a possible explanation. This could imply that in rejecting (or in believing it wasn’t accessible to her in the first place) the usual Venusian expression she was able to embrace what opposed it—in this case, a connection to Nature and her ‘natural’ role as an authority (Ceres–which she may have lived as the ‘pseudo-mother’ to a couple generations of children) melded with her photography (Neptune, in Leo—and proportionally she seems to have taken a large number of Self-portraits—even when the lion hides, she doesn’t).
The observational eye of Maier’s camera seems attuned to those who don’t normally receive that much attention; she finds and frames the ordinary, the every day, and appears to make a specialty of informal portraits of those who aren’t used to being noticed. The Venus-Neptune connection could bestow the ability to see and appreciate what’s usually invisible, the beauty that’s typically obscured. Mercury and Jupiter are conjunct in Aquarius=choosing a modern means of communicating, and in contacting the social sphere; with the camera always between herself and her subjects, Vivian may have made an overarching statement about what she truly found worthy by what she chose to photograph—that was her statement, loud and clear. She takes an intellectual approach to society, communicating and recording with something of a cool, dispassionate gaze, through the camera. With Merc-Jupiter opposed Zeus, there’s no doubt that she saw her photos as an expression of ambitions and talent as even on the surface she appeared to deny she had any ambition at all.
Many ask why Vivian didn’t share her work. We see Juno (empowerment) and the South Node (the past) conjunct in Capricorn, and these hook by aspect into ruler Saturn, Uranus, Chiron, Mars, and Ceres-Neptune=this may speak of when Vivian and her mother lived for a time in New York City around 1930 with photographer Jeanne Bertrand, who likely taught Vivian the ‘rules’ of photography, and acted as an example of how taking pictures could empower, by giving the photographer a god-like ability to literally choose what will be seen, to frame, to crop real life to one’s liking. These contacts link empowerment and the past to the ego and action urge, material reality, originality and innovation, the wound/ healing or the Chirotic gift (in this case, in Aries, suggesting a need to heal so that she could do ‘me first’, and so act as an example), and that natural expression and creative energy—and yet the presence of Saturn may have muted the urge to take any action to share the work. The idea could’ve been that empowerment comes from a contained, modest life, where originality and urges toward independence were kept small, offering little encouragement to the Artist within her, who may have been hungry for more, and on a bigger scale (that wide conjunction of the Sun to Jupiter).
In fact, that Ceres-Neptune, so instrumental in her creative stance, is part of a Fire Grand Trine involving Mars and Chiron. This implies that, had she found healing and felt support in this life, she would’ve expressed her personal power (that the Soul required she make adjustments for—Sun quincunx Pluto) through creative action, as a ‘creative authority’ (Neptune-Ceres); but she clearly wasn’t able to heal, and so the creative output was toned down—not exactly hidden, but likely seeming untenable as a lifestyle and means of earning, despite the example of Bertrand.
And what of the clearly implied violations or abuse both suffered and administered by Vivian? There’s a point in the documentary when a portion of the will of Vivian’s aunt is read, (and I paraphrase), ‘I exclude all living relatives, and they know exactly why’. Whatever injury occurred in this family, it spanned generations. Vivian definitely had a Virgo Moon, with ruler Mercury planet of earliest degree, and conjunct Jupiter=does this represent exaggerated critical emotions, something even the strongest motivations would be hard pressed to overcome? It could, and with Jupiter representing society as a whole (and so possibly the children she cared for) conjunct the Sun in stressful relationship to Pluto, Vivian may have related to the children, seeing them as very similar to, even a part of, her (Sun-Jupiter) but have been in constant Plutonian turmoil that expressed through her treatment of them rising from her own past experiences—for if she sees herself in them, then the pain is alive and present, all the time, and she shares it as she experienced it.
Venus opposed Ceres and trine Vesta suggests that, though she at least theoretically valued beauty and relationships (along with all things that would be designated by the two Houses Venus rules, if we knew her birth time), there was a never-ending struggle going on, one where authority figures, particularly maternal ones (Ceres) always won over ‘the girl’ (Venus), with Vivian casting herself as the weaker player, even when she cared for children—that would’ve brought out the Soul-pain (Sun-Pluto), as Vivian would then play the powerful Ceres figure to her ‘spoiled’ and privileged (Venus) charges. The Venus situation becomes a loop of longing and denial, fed over and over through the mechanism of adjustments to the power scenario—with no reasonable resolution in sight.
I thought I’d provide links so that you can see how really crisp and gorgeous her photos are: http://www.vivianmaier.com/ about her life: http://www.vivianmaier.com/about-vivian-maier/ http://vivianmaier.blogspot.com/ http://www.motherjones.com/media/2011/04/vivian-maier-john-maloof http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/03/31/candid-camera-2 (the latter link addresses the film on Maier mentioned earlier) and for info on the very unusual copyright conditions in this case, see this: http://gapersblock.com/ac/2013/08/13/the-curious-case-of-vivian-maiers-copyright/