1959. Kochi, India VM1959W04098-13-MC A young man with a bare chest and a bandana covering his hair posing in front of a large ship.

Vivian Maier Winners Seconde

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 from 2nde students. 

And the winners are, in no particular order:
Théophile from Mrs Malecki’s class, Lycée Jean-Baptiste Corot, Douai;
Sidney from Ms Michaud’s class, Lycée Les Bourdonnières, Nantes;
Noémie, Mila and Romane Finkler from Mr Adiouani’s class, Lycée Le Corbusier, Poissy;
Yona from Mme Mazurek’s class, Lycée St Pierre Fourier, Paris;
Khloé, Margot and Nina from Lycée Les Ardilliers, Saumur;
Louise and Alice from Mrs Robert-Jurado’s class, Lycée Pierre du Terrail, Pontcharra;
Eugénie, Ambre and Salomé from Mrs Breton’s class, Lycée Sainte Marie, Cholet;
Candice from Mme Le Saout-Dutay’s class, Institution Sainte Marie, Antony;
Daphnée from Mrs Castaing-Debat’s class, Institut de l’Alma, Paris;
Ayah from Mrs Taylor’s class, Lycée La Perverie, Nantes.

Scroll down to discover their amazing texts!

Théophile from Mrs Malecki’s class, Lycée Jean-Baptiste Corot, Douai

(Photo above.)

This is Tony, Tony is a sailor, he is with us today for the 130th anniversary of his boat. He's been on this boat for 13 years now, since he was 14 years old he working with his father. This is a big day for Tony, he's going to be the captain of this boat. "It's amazing, we are a family that has been working on this boat for over a century, and no one in my family has received this award," he said with great emotion. For the occasion, the boat will sail around the world with Tony at the helm, it is a huge responsibility and it will be the first trip on which he will be at the helm. After a final farewell to his family, who had come for the occasion, he put on his captain's uniform and went to say hello to his crew. The doors close, the anchor rises, the engines start and here is Tony, big and strong, leaving for several months of navigation on board his boat.

Sidney from Ms Michaud’s class, Lycée Les Bourdonnières, Nantes

A man feeding pigeons that are on his hands, and a woman looking over his shoulder
New York, NY

“Grief. It’s hard to let her go, because I feel like I might have told her one last time how much she meant to my life.

I wish I could go back in time.  Going to work, in my little restaurant where she also worked. Everyone came to this little brewery to see her. Smiling and always happy, we all miss her. Yet, I feel her presence with me every time I look at the sky. I see her flying with her own wings. The memory of her smile.

When my thoughts are too strong I am going out, to let go in the streets of our city. And that’s where I see what she yearned for every day, freedom. Like a bird. It will continue to live in us and with us in the form of freedom, a bird flying into the sky to escape evil and good.

I want to see you again so I can say goodbye to you at least one last time.

A woman photographer took a picture of me in my moments of sorrow and reflection. Her name was Vivian Maier, she was telling me her story and I felt confused so I told her about the young girl I loved and who recently disappeared. Confiding in her, I found a little bit of solace and hope. These photos she gave me after she left made me realize that wherever I am, the wandering spirit of the girl I loved will bring me happiness. I want to take back my life and continue loving my life for her. I want to leave, fly away. We will meet again someday, Era.”

Noémie, Mila and Romane Finkler from Mr Adiouani’s class, Lycée Le Corbusier, Poissy

A man smoking in a doorway.
March 31, 1966, Chicago, IL.

The familiar smell of tobacco surrounds me like a reassuring shield, preventing the freezing capitalist air to reach me. It’s 10:33, and he’s late. Americans are always late. This fat New Yorker is wasting my precious time. Sadly, I really need this intel for the Motherland. 10:34. He’s still not here, and I’m finishing my Treasure cigarette. I’m going back to USSR tonight with all the info I collected. I can’t wait to see my family again. 10:36. I think it’s him.

“Hey you, gimme fire will ya.”

The man has a loud, rough voice. This sentence was the one we agreed on.

“You’re 7 minutes late, Spike. I don’t have all day. Give me the intel, fast. My time is precious”.

He genuinely annoys me. I can sense his expensive Cologne, covering the smell of my cigarettes.

“Yo, don’t get impatient like that, man! Imma give you watcha need right now. Your name is Andriev right? That’s a pretty Russian name if you ask me! So, I just got out of a meeting with the President, and…”

He stops. My glance freezes him. He may be careless, but I know the cost of negligence.

“Whatever, man, just take that, I’m outta here,” he whispers. He gives me a cigarette case. I don’t open it, not here, not in an American street. Deep down, I feel it. I have what I came here for.

Yona from Mme Mazurek’s class, Lycée St Pierre Fourier, Paris

An elderly man and woman, rather disheveled, walking in the middle of a city street surrounded by skyscrapers.
Chicago, IL

One day I met these two people. They were standing in front of me, a man holding firmly the arm of a woman who seemed to be his wife. They seemed a bit out of place, simple people, surely disadvantages, with little means… Her eyes were empty, she seemed disoriented. She had lost her way in the streets of New York. Indeed, for several years she had been ill, she had been in and out of psychiatric hospitals, it was hard for him to take care of her, because she suffered from Alzheimer’s and thus often got lost in the streets… That day, he had found her. All alone, she rediscovered the only path that she still remembered, the one and only that remained in her memory. A path from another time, and yet still so present in her.

He had found her in front of her elementary school. Only this man knew where to find her, because he knew the secrets of her heart. She, so, old, remembered the place where she had grown up. She had forgotten everything, but not her school, surely one of her few happy memories of her painful existence. So fently he took her arm and said, “Don’t worry, it’s over. We’re going home my darling. We crossed each other, we stared at each other, I took my camera and I immortalised the moment, to never forget their faces. They were surprised, so I smiled at them. And when I turned back, I could see them, together, still holding hands…

Khloé, Margot and Nina from Lycée Les Ardilliers, Saumur

James’ Testimony

A young boy shining th e shoes of a Central Park carriage driver
New York (Boy Shining Shoes), July 1952

My name is James, I’m 12 years old and I live in the poorest neighbourhood in New York City, Harlem.

Every day for the past two years, I’ve been going to the richest parts of New York City to bring back money because my mom and dad couldn’t afford it anymore.

Every time I go downtown in the morning, I always see a lot of young children with their school bags, rushing to school.

I really wanted to be like that but fate chose otherwise.

Instead, I had to polish shoes, but I don’t mind because I know my parents will be proud of me when I get home.

But today the harvest was meagre after all there was no one in the streets, they were all off to the see as it was the summer vacation. I have never really experienced this, the excitement of knowing there is only one day left before the vacation and I would really like to experience this once in my life. I was afraid to go home, my parents would be disappointed.

I arrived home, my heart was beating faster and faster.

“Hello Mom.”

“Hello son, so how much money did you manage to get today?”

“Sorry Mom, but today

I have nothing to report to you, there was no one in the streets.”

“That’s okay, son, you’ll do better next time.”

“I could see in her eyes that she was disappointed, so I immediately went to bed so that tomorrow would be a new day and I would be able to make my mom happier and bring back a lot of money.”

Louise and Alice from Mrs Robert-Jurado’s class, Lycée Pierre du Terrail, Pontcharra

A baby girl holding out a doll and looking upset

I put my little girl on the floor and look her straight in the eyes to say these few words of farewell, the last ones she will hear from her mom.

"I would love to keep you with me for life, but if I take you home your father might come after you again and I couldn't take the beatings for you forever, so I have to leave you so you can live your life safely. You will see your new parents will take good care of you, they will give you the life I could never have given you. Your mother will be loving and gentle, no pain will distort her face. And you will have a good father, sober, who will not be violent and who will love you. The last image I will have of you will be your pretty face filled with tears with your little Lilou doll in your hand, the only toy I was able to give you and that your father did not destroy in a rage. For all the screams, the bits of glass, the broken objects, all this violence but above all for all my love, I say goodbye to you my darling little girl."

I turn my back to her and when she begs me to come back, I close my eyes tightly and let my tears flow.

Eugénie, Ambre and Salomé from Mrs Breton’s class, Lycée Sainte Marie, Cholet

To be Homeless

- This homeless is a man of 35 years old who accepts to tell us about his history and especially this picture:

A man who looks uncared for, in a curled up position outside a building.
September 1953. New York, NY VM1953W03393-12-MC

-Hi my name is Steven, I will speak about my life, which was disastrous. It was a never-ending storm, yes it is the perfect term. To start, I grew up with parents always absent, it started well.

I was bad at school and I didn’t have friends. After school, I became a worker at the factory, it was extremely difficult and boring.

And one day my life lightened, because I met my reason for living: Marie, she was all to me.

At the time this picture has been taken I lost all my life. Ma…Ma…Marie was dead. I collapsed out of pain. I was in pain all over, nothing mattered. My heart stopped beating and I was empty inside. I think this day I was dead with Marie, no I’m sure I am dead.

During many days after I collapsed in the street, passers-by looked at me and said to their children “don't look at the man". I cried, depressed for days and weeks. I walked the streets not knowing where to go. I had no taste for anything anymore cause I would like to make her children, to have at least one memory of her. but it's too late now, he's dead and then that's all, it's life as people told me. But I didn't listen to them, in fact I would have liked to see them in my place lose the one and only person who is dearest to us in the world on this Earth. I don't think they would have said that on the contrary, they would have had the same reaction as me. But the hardest part was still on the day of the funeral, the idea of telling myself that I was going to say goodbye to her, forever driving me crazy.

Take advantage of your loved ones as long as you can. It is very important ».

- Thank you Steven for sharing your story with us. I know it was really difficult.

Candice from Mme Le Saout-Dutay’s class, Institution Sainte Marie, Antony

Every morning my dad disappears behind the glass door

A little boy looking out through the glass pane of a door
May 5, 1955. New York, NY

At 8 o’clock every morning, after his breakfast, my dad puts his coat and hat on, he takes his bag and opens the big glass door of the house. Then, he goes down the street and disappears around the corner. I don’t really know where he goes but my mom says that he is going to a big house with a lot of adults to talk and bring money back.

But personally, I think that during the day, all the adults go to a secret place: a big castle full of games, toys and candies where they play with each other in secret. I find that a little strange and sad. I wonder why Dad would rather go to work than stay with me. I have lots of toys in my room too and mommy is cooking many good cakes.

Every day, I watch through the glass door of the house. I watch the street and all adults who come and go. I watch the street to understand. I’m sure that one day I will find out the truth about dad’s mysterious days.

But tonight around 6:00 PM, I know that my dad will reappear around the corner. He’ll walk up the street with his coat, his hat and his bag and he’ll open the glass door of the house.

He will have certainly played a lot because he will be very tired like every evening. As he will need to rest, I will go and look for his newspaper and slippers and I will give him a big hug.

Tomorrow behind the glass door, I’ll dream again about dad.

Daphnée from Mrs Castaing-Debat’s class, Institut de l’Alma, Paris

The Story of Lovely Lee

A glamorous woman standing outside New York Public Library
New York, NY

This is the story of the maddest woman this world has ever seen, Linda Lee. Linda Lee was an American Hollywood star back in the fifties, she had the most gorgeous egg-shaped hazel eyes that all the other actresses wanted, the loveliest lips, the shiniest hair, her cheeks were always bubble gum colored and she always smelled like Chanel n°5. Every time she walked into a room people stopped and stared, she mesmerized people with her essence, her beauty, her charisma. Everyone who knew her or even talked to her once said she was the most dazzling woman they knew. Yes, Linda Lee was loved, loved by many, but she was also envied by other young actresses who could kill to take her place in the spotlight, but mostly our lovely Lee was mistreated by the men in the industry who treated her like their puppet, their money maker, an object.

One day Linda was on set filming a movie with her co-star James Dean that was supposed to come out next fall. The director kept making inappropriate remarks about her body, about how she gained weight, about how he was capable of replacing her with a much younger and attractive actress than her, one who’s still in her early twenties instead of an actress who’s pushing thirty. It was not the first time Lovely Lee heard these insults. She actually has heard them multiple times from different directors ever since she turned twenty-eight and gave birth to her first son. These remarks have been affecting her more and more everyday causing her to turn to drugs for comfort and having an eating disorder, something that she learnt to keep to herself. After twenty minutes of the director verbally abusing her, she finally broke and started yelling back. The men on set called her hysterical, “the maddest woman they’ve ever seen”, some said. She was then forced to leave the set and quit definitively. Linda Lee was outraged she was sick of the mistreatment she got every day, so she had an idea, an idea to run away, she just felt like she was not wanted in the acting world and she thought “what’s the point of staying if she can’t do what she loves?”. So she took her bags and her kids and left forever. And that was the last day we ever saw our lovely Lee.

Ayah from Mrs Taylor’s class, Lycée La Perverie, Nantes

A little girl crying
1959, Grenoble, France VM19XXW03452-16-MC

I feel miserable. I am throwing a tantrum without knowing the reason why. Something wet flows out of my eyes, I think it is called sobbing, right? In addition, I’m hearing a crying high-pitched voice, and I suppose it’s me again. I don’t want to act like this; however, I can’t avoid the weird feeling that takes hold of me. I am not fully myself anymore. Furthermore, Mom seems irritated, she’s crying out. I fear it might be because of me, did I do something wrong, did I give mom a hassle, am I the reason why she’s annoyed?

Aghh I cannot think straight, all my thoughts are jostling. On the other hand, as I raise my head to see what the matter is with mom, I see a broad, tall man. I’ve never seen him before. He’s standing still, his head lowered. Mr. Lowered Head has blonde curly shoulder length hair, which shines in the sun. I cannot turn away at his magnificence, I am speechless. Strangely I catch him several times looking at me with glittering eyes, instead of replying to whatever mom is shouting to him. Why is mommy acting rude and mean towards him, shouldn’t she be kind and loving as usual?

Thankfully, after a while Mr. “I got mom furious” walks away and leaves us in our peaceful daily life. Yet, I can’t shake the feeling that I know him from somewhere, we look just alike… Wait- could it be the one that mom is talking on and on about, even though most of the time to say she doesn’t need “him”, a coward (please forgive me mom) who couldn’t take the responsibility of supporting a family. Ohh… does that mean he may be my… my long-lost dad?? [A few hours later] I finally go back home holding hands with mom, with my swollen eyes, keeping in mind that I met “him”.