Some of you who are art lovers may have spent time over the past year exploring the work of Vivien Maier. This brilliant photographer is today considered one of the greatest who ever lived. Yet despite taking over 100,000 photos throughout the 1950's and 1960's she never developed a single negative. It wasn't until 2007, over half a century later, that her undeveloped work was purchased by an amatuer historian at a Chicago auction house. As he started developing the photos he realized that he had stumbled upon a work of great importance. Here were some of the greatest street photos of Chicago and New York ever taken yet he had no idea who took the photos or when. It wasn't until 2009 that he learned of Vivien Maier, and at that point she was already dead. Speaking to her friends and relatives, the historian learned that no one knew about her photographs. She never spoke of them, never showed them to anybody. In fact very few people knew anything about her. She was private and secretive. Her life remains mostly a mystery even today. Later this year a documentary will be released that does its best to piece together the life of Vivien Maier. Meanwhile you can look through some of her photos and find more info here.
I think the most interesting part of this story to me is imagining in today's society a person who never shared a single photo they took. Today's obsession with fame, fans, and followers means that most people put as much of themselves as possible out there for the world to see. People make art and post it online hours after it is done. You aren't an artist unless you have an online portfolio, and a Facebook Like page where all your friends and fans can openly admire your greatness. Who now makes art for the sake of art? Vivien took photos because it was her passion. She created art for the sake of creating art. Creativity was her drive and creation was her end goal. Fame and fortune were not in her mind. This was a woman who knew her skill and talent and didn't need or want anyone to tell her how great she was. Some of my friends on Facebook have well over 1,000 photos posted. Instagram lets people take and share a photo instantly across the web. Seeing something cool means sharing it with your friends. Making something cool means sharing it ith your friends. In our connected society the idea of a Vivien Maier is almost ridiculous. Yet here we are about to learn the story of one of the greatest photographers of all time who never shared a single photograph. It just makes me think about today's society and our obsession with celebrity. To be so great yet never admit it. Now that is truly an artist.