There Are A Million “Vivian Maiers”

Vivian Maier

One of Vivian Maier’s Benches Near Her Home

Okay…maybe there are more than a million Vivian Maiers!  But, I’m not talking about the number of people with her talent.  Rather, I’m talking about those who have a similar motivation and passion for photography (or any other creative art form) that seems to be driven by a personal, private objective, and raison d’être.  In fact, although she carried a camera with her much of the time, there is little evidence of her sharing or promoting her work.  I’ve only read of one instance of an attempt by her to sell some photos at a modest price which was, in remarkable hindsight, refused!  Particularly surprising because Vivian Maier‘s work is amazingly good yet she managed to slip through her life, barely being noticed at all.  Keep in mind that one of the unique things about Vivian Maier is her consistent and uncanny ability to capture amazing scenes with such a high degree of success.  Mostly with a single camera (Rollefllex or Leica) and one lens and nothing else…alone.  I absolutely admire her work.  But I would have never known about her work if not for a bit of serendipity.

Vivian Maier left behind a mysterious life story along with a massive trove of outstanding photographs which were discovered shortly prior to her death (In 2009) when someone randomly bought the contents of her storage unit, hoping to salvage something of interest.  When he (John Maloof) found the boxes of photos and negatives, he started to share them online and soon discovered the breadth of her talent.  Articles, books, exhibits, and films followed for several years until some lawsuits challenging the rightful ownership rights derailed things…for a while, we hope.
For more info about Vivian Maier, check out this blog post from 2014 (click here).  Though there have been some “developments” since then.

Vivian Maier

Famous Self Portrait of Vivian Maier

But, the fascinating thing I ponder is whether there are, indeed, many photographers and other types of artists who are, apparently like her,  making their art purely for the sake of their own personal creative expression and satisfaction.  That is, not everyone is interested in having their work shared with the public.  And, not everyone is looking for approval, fame, or accolades, etc.  Many people just like the idea of walking around and taking photos.  That is, the actual act of looking for things to photograph and hearing the click of the shutter.  No ulterior motive.  I think this is truer today than ever due to digital photography and cell phone photography.  Because, although those innovations have opened the door (rather, floodgates!) for sharing, they have also allowed people the recreational opportunity to photograph whatever and whenever they want…trying to find the ever elusive image!
How many photos do you take each year…and how many do you share…or how many have you taken just for the enjoyment.  Like many, I take thousands of photos per year, but only a small number of them are seen by anyone.

Vivian Maier

Vivian Maier Photos on Display

Like you, I’ve also wondered about success…and what it means with regard to art and vision.  Is success being published or hung in a gallery, or is it a personal feeling of accomplishment, creativity, and self-discovery?  I don’t know.  Probably a bit of both!  (Or a lot of one and not the other!)

Vivian Maier

A Couple of Books about Vivian

In any event, we are certainly living in the Golden Age of Photography!  And I encourage everyone to (first and foremost) go out, keep your eyes open, and keep taking photos that bring joy to your lives…whether you share or not!
Click, click!

Next topic will probably include people photos from our upcoming trip to Cuba led by photojournalist Peter Turnley.

Thanks for stopping by!
Stephen M. Levin
Facebook – @stephenmlevinphotography

Twitter – @stephen_levin
Instagram – sml_photo

SML Photography