I have written a couple of posts about Vivian Maier. However, for those of you new to Ms. Maier’s name, she was a street photographer shrouded in mystery because her work went unseen until boxes of negatives, prints, and unprocessed film was acquired by chance. There is a documentary, “Finding Vivian Maier”, which was nominated for an Academy Award, that explores a little more about the photographer if you are so inclined to explore her story further. But, I feel like she is a mystery, and perhaps, that is the way she wanted it. We will never know for sure what her thoughts or wishes might have been, but that has not deterred the surge of interest in her work.Read More
Yesterday was Vivian Maier's birthday. I admit that I had no knowledge of Ms. Maier, or her work until I watched the documentary, Finding Vivian Maier. I watched the documentary during a long airplane flight a few years ago while searching the "in flight" selections to pass the time. Maier was never the subject of any art history courses I was enrolled in, books I read, images I explored in galleries, museums, or online, so finding a "new" photographer piqued my interest. I slipped on my earbuds and listened to her story, told through third-party eyes, which unfolded for the next hour (plus a few minutes). The story was so intriguing to me that I re-watched the documentary on the return flight. Here are just a few reasons why I found it worthy of recommending.
First, I found it to be a cautionary tale for me, personally, for these reasons:
I am guilty of not printing my work now that I am embracing digital photography. There are many, many, many reasons to print a physical print of your photograph (which is a blog post in and of itself), but her story illustrates the importance of you, as the artist, being in control of your own artistic vision; and
It is the perfect illustration, for me, that perfectionism robs you of completion. She did the work. Apparently, used her camera regularly, possibly even daily, as we are so often taught to do, and yet, the next step, or steps, were never taken to complete the process.
Secondly, the whole story had me vacillating between being grateful that someone saw the value in her work and found it worthy of "saving", to the opposite feeling that she should have had control of her work, why didn't she exhibit it herself with her own vision and specifications, and many feeling in between.
It also reminded me that I have an old camera that belonged to my grandmother. Soon after I inherited the camera, I discovered that there was a roll of film loaded with a few remaining exposures. When I shared my discovery, a family member excitedly asked if I planned to develop the film. Without hesitation, my answer was, No! There were shocked faces in the room so I felt the need to explain that I loved the mystery of imagining what moments were etched on the film that was probably 30 years old at the time. My choice was to allow those unprocessed images to challenge my imagination. But, that exchange made me realize that there are differing opinions.
Today is Vivian Maier's birthday (February 1, 1926 - April 21, 2009). If you are not familiar with Vivian Maier or her work, it may be because she was relatively unknown prior to the acquisition of some of her personal effects in 2007. Little information is known about Miss Maier. Apparently, she was an intensely private person who worked as a nanny for some 40 years, beginning in the mid-1950's. During this time she was known to walk around with a Rolleiflex camera strapped around her neck, snapping images on rolls and rolls of film. Unfortunately, Vivian Maier did not experience the appreciation of her work during her lifetime. In fact, among the bevy of her personal effects were copious rolls of exposed, undeveloped film. Yep. The undeveloped film means that she never saw much of her own work. Clearly, showing her work was not why she did the work. So, what drove her to continue taking those photographs?Read More