Children playing in the spray from an open fire hydrant in the street

Vivian Maier Winners C1

Posted by Speakeasy News > Friday 04 February 2022 > Pedagogy

We received thousands of fabulous entries to our Vivian Maier creative writing contest. Here are our favourite texts entered from LLCER and Euro lycée classes.

And the winners are, in no particular order:
Lila and Alban from Mr Thuillier’s class, Lycée Anguier, Eu
Kia Lukeni from Mrs Tranawski-Daum’s class, Lycée Rodin, Paris
Alex, Saïd, Mathias and Matthieu from Mrs Kerg’s class, Lycée Pissaro, Pontoise
Esther from Mme Ropert’s class, Lycée St Louis, Châteaulin
Paula Gasser, from Mr Flaujac’s class, Lycée français Brasilia, Brazil
Lucas, César and Jade from Mrs Breton’s class, Lycée Sainte Marie, Cholet
Inès, Léonie and Alyssia from Ms Gautun’s class, Lycée La Croix Rouge-La Salle, Brest
Diamante from Ms Duval’s class, Lycée François 1er, Fontainebleau
Léna from Mme Pautet’s class, Lycée français de Dusseldorf, Germany
Flora from Ms Dénécé’s class, Lycée Marcellin Berthelot, Questembert

Scroll down to discover their amazing texts!

Lila and Alban from Mr Thuillier’s class, Lycée Anguier, Eu

(About the photo above.)

5 PM After a long work day, walking under the unbearable heat wasn’t the greatest idea to cheer myself up. I couldn’t believe my boss didn’t let me take a vacation. It was always the same answe : “The data isn’t going to process itself, is it ?”

Fuming, I was dashing home when I heard high-pitched shouts. I followed the voices and found myself in front of a chaotic scene. A few kids were hammering on a fire hydrant with a monkey wrench, under the astounded eyes of the passers-by. The kids were yelling at the water gushing out and the grown-ups were yelling at the kids. Overwhelmed by the harsh noise, I shut my eyes and a sudden wave of nostalgia hit me. I saw myself and my brother in our grandparents’ house. The smell of the freshly cut grass would attract us to the backyard and we would play all afternoon with the hose, trying to catch droplets in our mouths.

A deeper voice coming from the garage joined the squealing, bringing me back to reality. A mechanic, seemingly mad, wanted his tool back. He snatched the wrench from a kid and hurried away. So I stole another tool…

Kia Lukeni from Mrs Tranawski-Daum’s class, Lycée Rodin, Paris

A man lying on the ground with his hand to his face

 ''We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. ''

Ah! What a joke, right? He came in America with the hope of a better life. Unlike many others, he didn't believe that anyone in America could actually have opportunities to become rich and successful. No. That was ridiculous. Not anyone could have access to the elements required to achieve this dream and such reality could only be a foolish utopia. An absurd belief. Some kind of stupid propaganda. He had always been told he was a bit pessimistic though. And yet, here he was, contemplating his life and questioning his decisions animated by the sheer and timid aspiration of a better life. Completely drunk and laying in the corridor of a luxurious hotel he managed to secretly get in. After all, if he was going to get kicked in every aspect because of his origins, he might as well enjoy the bitter deliciousness of this liquor and the temporary happiness void of any hurtful trouble it will bring him.

He had been doing that for a while now, he wondered how much longer his body would keep up. The disillusionment of so called '' American dream'' and the constant fight for equality were slowly putting out the already weak flame of hope dancing in his heart.

Well, he would fight until he didn't have the strength anymore, until the breath of life blew the small flame of hope, until he couldn't get back on his feet. But for now, he would stay there, laying on a floor he couldn't even afford thinking of and keep on dreaming. After all, it didn't cost a thing.

Alex, Saïd, Mathias and Matthieu from Mrs Kerg’s class, Lycée Pissaro, Pontoise

Several men in a train dressed identically and reading the newspaper
1950s. Chicago, IL

These men woke up at the same time, got dressed up the same way, bought their newspapers at the same shop and headed for the train going in the same direction to the same place. They are all civil functionaries, or in other words, they are all the same type of Mr Average. One could guess they’re on the lookout for the stock market and waiting for their salary and hoping for a raise. One of them, Mr Martin, is stressed about waiting for his raise and starts to think of the routine he’s been stuck in for the last 2 years.
He then realises that both the people behind him look exactly the same and he starts to realise how cookie-cutter his life has been lately, but his thoughts are interrupted by his friend Mr Martin and he loses his train of thought and thinks about stocks again. The men will leave the bus, take the elevator, filter into different floors of the same building, then walk to their offices, which all look the same. The masculine routine and the social order of the time is what is captured in this photo.

Esther from Mme Ropert’s class, Lycée St Louis, Châteaulin

A couple riding in a horse-drawn carriage in New York in 1953.

Sunday 17th of May, was the most beautiful day of my life.

One week ago John told me that he was feeling really nervous and anxious because of his work as a lawyer in Boston. He decided to take me on a weekend in New York, the city that never sleeps. I love New York City, I love the new Yorkers, I love the architecture, I love the warm atmosphere of this big but also lovely city. John booked us a room at The Plaza Hotel, one of the most luxurious and famous hotels of the city. I was on a cloud when I discovered the stunning room we had, the one with the best view of all, they said.

We had a beautiful Saturday. John took me all over the city, Times Squares, the Empire State Building, the Rockefeller Center, the Broadway theaters, all that under a shiny sky of a beautiful Spring day. The sun was coming down, the lights were illuminating the boulevard, women put on their most charming dresses, men were in their black and white suits, when John brought me to his favorite jazzy bar in NYC : The King Cole Bar.

I enjoyed the cozy atmosphere of it. A highly talented pianist was there, the cocktails were delightful, it felt like the time had stopped, it was just him and I on this splendid night.

The next morning, John woke up very early, he had to make some calls, which I found kind of suspicious on a weekend where he was supposed to just relax. Anyway, after the delicious breakfast he wanted to take me to the most beautiful place in the city according to him. At first I couldn’t find which place he was talking about but later on, we finally arrived at the heart of Central Park. For him, this place was a source of inspiration, of creativity, of calm, even more on a May day with the cherry blossoms.

Suddenly, while we were on a bridge, he moved next to me, put his right knee on the ground and opened a little box with the most beautiful ring I’ve ever seen in my life. Tears of joy rolled down my cheeks, I was overwhelmed by the whole situation, I was completely stunned. Will you marry me? he said, obviously, since the moment I met him, I knew he was going to be the man of my life. I said yes, everyone around us applauded, photographers were there, and a horse-drawn carriage was waiting for us. That was what all these early morning calls were about.

I couldn’t stop smiling for the rest of the day, that was the most perfect thing that could happen to me.

Paula Gasser, from Mr Flaujac’s class, Lycée français Brasilia, Brazil

A Volkswagen Beetle car parked looking out onto a body of water

This was easily the best day of my life although it was nothing extravagant. I first took her to our favorite restaurant, the place where we first met, a simple Italian bistro, not at all fancy. At that time, I was still working two jobs so I could afford paying my rent. Even so, I wanted to make that night special. We then went on a small walk near the beach. It was a little too crowded for my taste, but we still managed to make a great evening out of it. That’s when I knew that it was time to take her to our final destination. We drove to a quiet place. I parked the car in front of the sea. The view was quite mediocre. Last time I went there the sun was setting and it was outstanding, but that day, it was quite cloudy, and we couldn’t see far past the reef. I apologized, for the day had not been what I had planned. She chuckled a little and kissed me, said that the day was wonderful. I then proceeded to take the ring from my back pocket and propose. Now, I can’t really tell you what I said, as it has been more than 50 years since it happened. All I can remember is her beautiful smile. Over the years, this story has been quite modified, you know, with time, stories you tell change with the emotions you feel. It went from being a simple day to a very hectic day, full of adventures. I don’t blame her; it has been a very long time. This was at first a matter we used to bicker about, it used to frustrate me a little, the fact she didn’t remember that day as it was. But with time I learned to accept it, she saw it differently than I did. Nonetheless, we could both agree on one thing, it was the best day of our lives.


Lucas, César and Jade from Mrs Breton’s class, Lycée Sainte Marie, Cholet

Vivian Maier reflected in a mirror held by a man who seems to have lifted it from a pile of discarded objects.
Self-Portrait, 1955

First days of November in Chicago, 1956.

I was on my way home after another day spent as caregiver of Mr. and Mrs. Gensburg’s children. I finally arrived in my neighborhood and entered the maze of passages slaloming between the buildings that lead to mine. I was walking lost in my thoughts when I saw a man taking up a piece of mirror in a pile of furniture piled up on the path. He had all the appearance of a working man: thick and used leather gloves, an old, sturdy felt jacket and a little wide pants. I dared to ask the man why he was collecting furniture from the street. He answered that he was designing his new home which turned out to be the flat right above mine. I immortalised this moment of life that now made sense. I found it picturesque that this worker, probably living with only a few pennies, had the will to shape his home.

The man turned out to be very kind. After a few minutes of discussion, he warmly invited me to go up and help him think about his apartment’s layout.

For an hour, we discussed where to put that bloody mirror and we finally decided to fix it next to the wooden door.  We looked proudly at our masterpiece and after a silence we laughed at all the efforts we had put into fixing the object. I looked at his reflection in the mirror and immediately, the sight of his laughing face and his arms crossed with a satisfied air were pleasant to me. He gently offered me a drink to show his gratitude for my help.

This man was the first person I shared a good time with in a while and the few drinks helped me even more to appreciate the moment. I let myself be overcome by inner peace and we kissed. What followed was of a tenderness and a crazy intensity. Time was suspended and I was taking a break from the monotonous life I used to know.

The silence was broken when a key was pressed into the lock of the front door. I saw in the freshly installed mirror that a woman had entered the apartment. I quickly understood from the panicked face of the half-dressed man next to me that it was probably the one who shares his life. The lady called for her man and because miracles do not exist, she found us together and she remained speechless in the doorway, her eyes mixed with disillusionment, sadness and anger. Reality had caught up with me, as well as shame. The shame of having broken the heart of this woman who seemed to me at that moment the most human being of this room, in her despair she looked like me, it could have been me.

Inès, Léonie and Alyssia from Ms Gautun’s class, Lycée La Croix Rouge-La Salle, Brest

Two African American boys looking at the camera. The smaller on, on the right, is wearing Mickey Mouse ears, the older one has a cowboy hat slung on his back.
Chicago, IL

Dear diary,

Today I accomplished my biggest dream. I went to Disney World with my big brother and mommy. it was my birthday present, an amazing birthday... I'm turning four! but I know that it is not the only reason.

a month ago, the hospital asked me what my last wish was. I could go to the circus, to the aquarium, visit a fire station... However, I always wanted to meet Mickey Mouse!!! I was so excited when my mother told me there were enough donations for us to go.

Josh and I went on a giant roller coaster, it was incredible! After that, mommy allowed us to eat cotton candy. then we ran to the animal's area. we saw huge elephants and we threw peanut at them. They caught them with their long trunk. The lions were majestic. I tried to RAOOOOOWR at them, but it only scared the zebras next to them.

I will always remember this day full of happy memories for the rest of my life even if I know it will not be long. I am on the train home. starting to see Chicago from afar. I'm so exhausted, I think I am going to sleep...

Diamante from Ms Duval’s class, Lycée François 1er, Fontainebleau

In the street a woman argues with a policeman (photographed at the Musée du Luxembourg exhibition.)

“Oh my Goodness. I can’t just let it happen  Officer. This black women’s child just wanted to sit. This little child is not aware of this segregation thing. You can’t arrest this woman just because her child sat on a ‘white-people-only’ bench,” the woman yelled.

“I’m very sorry, Ma’am but this the law. I’m an officer and it is my duty to make people respect the law. Now if they don’t, it’s my duty to take firm actions to ensure that they don’t do it twice,” the man answered.

“We cannot consider this as a law because this is racist. Our government supposedly promotes equality but do you really think this law is a promotion of equality? I don’t think so, Sir! So if you arrest this woman, you’ll have to put me under arrest as well!” the woman shouted.

The police officer shrugged and proceeded with the arrest of the black woman.

“I’ll be quick and polite, Ma’am. M.O.V.E.  A.W.A.Y !”

“Over my dead body, you brute!” the woman protested.

“You can’t tell me that I didn’t warn you,” the officer said.

The officer pushed the lady down and handcuffed her while she was screaming. Not paying attention to her yelling, he handcuffed the black woman who was watching this scene and putting her hands on her child’s ears, for him to not hear the altercation.

“I just need you to give me an address where my colleague can drop your son off,” the police officer told the black woman.

The woman looked at her son for a while then said, “Darling, mommy will be back soon, so don’t worry. This officer right there will escort you to auntie’s. I love you. And don’t skip meals sweetheart”

The little boy was too stunned to speak so he just nodded and tightly hugged his mother.

On the scene of the arrest, nobody noticed there was a silent witness, a strange brown-haired woman who had been watching everything closely. She was wearing a long black dress and was with little children. Maybe her kids.

She didn’t do anything to stop the officer but took a picture with her Rolleiflex. Then she walked away with the children like nothing had happened.

Léna from Mme Pautet’s class, Lycée français de Dusseldorf, Germany

A man who appears to be disappearing into a bush.

Josh never felt special. He shared his name with at least twenty other boys of his small town. He had two maddening children and a wife that didn’t care, they all lived in a small nice house in the suburbs where the neighbors were all the same. He worked at a desk in a bank and had to wear a black suit like all the other men in the building. Josh hated that suit, it made him feel like an ant. He was one ant among a million others, and thinking about it would make him sick. Josh’s biggest dream was to be someone, not just another Josh that worked in a bank and hated his children, but a man that people remember, a man that lives for himself, not for society’s approval. This is how, on a hot Monday during June, he took too many pills, and instead of going to the bank, he stepped into a bush hoping another world would be special.


Flora from Ms Dénécé’s class, Lycée Marcellin Berthelot, Questembert

Various people outside a residential building, including a boy rolling a tyre
East 108th Street. September 28, 1959. New York, NY VM1959W04160-07-MC

The house opposite

I have never been a morning person. I could easily sleep for a week and only be woken up by hunger. I sometimes think this is the way I would like to die, without noticing, by doing something I'm good at. But when I get up from my bed and I go to my window the same familiar scene unfolds before my eyes.

Across the dirty street, in the house 321 located in front of mine, lives the Clark family. I use to spend so much time watching them that I assure I could describe them with my eyes closed. Their daily life is a distraction to me, I inspect each detail like a movie reviewer would do it with a famous director's new film.

Like every morning, Mrs Clark is leaning out of the left window from the common brick house, talking with Mr and Mrs Evans, our neighbours who live two or three houses away. I suppose they talk about the weather or children, the kind of things normal people talk about.

Spring is sweet at this time. There is another window on the left, but empty. Like all the other windows, it's open to aerate rooms after the night. Two usual passers-by returning from the store walk past. They cross the children. The eldest is playing with a hoop, dressed in a shirt, near his sisters. A little in front of him his little brother is learning to ride a bike. Their two sisters are watching them by the right window. All this show takes place under the always benevolent gaze of Mr Clark, hands on hips. This is where I find joy and hope, this is the reason why I wake up every day.