I can’t remember how I got to know about Vivian Maier but her name seems to appear in many articles and blogs. Anyway, I bought one of her books – Vivian Maier, a Photographer found– from Amazon. When I flipped through the pages, I knew I made a good investment.
Just a brief background about Vivian Maier: She started her photography hobby using a Rolleiflex Twin Lens Reflex in the 1950s (according to her dated film negatives). She worked as a nanny and carer all her life. During her time, many women started going for higher educations or attain skill sets but she chose to work as a nanny because it allowed her the freedom to pursue her interest.
According to the interviews of people who knew her, Vivian Maier took photos all the time. When she was seen outside, there would always be a camera hanging down her neck. Best of all, she developed her own films in her private bathroom.
Not many knew about her photography hobby and none had seen her art pieces. To cut the story short, she had some financial difficulty during the last few years of her life. Hence, she stopped her photography interest.
One day, she fell, hit her head and was sent to the hospital. She passed away in year 2009, penniless.
Inspiration we should draw from Vivian Maier
The reason why I was attracted to her story is that she was very determined with her hobby. Furthermore, I assumed she’s a very contented person, sticking to one camera for many years.
Perhaps that’s why her photography was so great because she understood her camera well.
I think in the modern days, photography becomes an expensive hobby because we are all attracted to gears. We buy and buy, because it feels cool to own a Leica, or a Leica lens, whatever. (I know I am one too).
Do for your own enjoyment
Since she didn’t publicise her art work to anyone, and seemed to have no intention to, I must say she did photography for her own sake. She didn’t shoot to please anyone but herself.
For us, we always think highly of our own photography work. We are so attached to them. We have ego about our photos. I kept reminding myself: do not spend time impressing others who would probably forgot about it in 3 minutes. Of course, it’s a different scenario if you are trying to impress clients who pay for your services.
This is probably the reason Maier could shoot for 20-30 over years. Because she didn’t crow-source her happiness and self-worth from Instagram likers. Just like a quote from Buddha ‘Be the happiness itself’.
Do your own portraits
I think one of Vivian Maier’s striking difference with others was her ‘obsession’ with self-portrait. I think she was ‘marketed’ as an artist who did a lot of self-portrait.
When I was a teenager, we all liked to tease people who took photos of themselves using mirror. We see that as pretentious and narcissist.
Look at me right now, I took a lot of self-portrait using mirror/reflection too. Because Vivian Maier did it. (lol)
(Karma is a bitch)
So, as of now, I think it is perfectly alright to shoot photos of yourself. Especially since we are the one paying for film and everything. Treat it as a personal growth diary.
Personally, I think it is such a waste that Vivian Maier herself did not get to enjoy her ‘fame’. But I don’t think she shoot in order to achieve fame right?
If only she’s alive, then we can all understand her photographic process. Such as what’s her vision, her workflow, etc. Unfortunately, she left behind 100,000 shots; many more waiting to be displayed.