As a wedding photographer I find I get most of my inspiration from photographers and art not necessarily in the wedding industry. Photographers like Eve Arnold, Mario Testino, Bruce Weber and Patrick Cline are just a few but a little while I ago I stumbled across a photographer, who until 2007 was completely unknown and those closest to her didn’t even know she was a photographer.
If you’re not familiar with her story, Vivian Maier was born in the US but raised in Europe. She returned to America when she was 25 years and started working as a nanny in Chicago – a career she kept for over 40 years. On her days off she wandered the streets with her camera and in her lifetime took over more than 100,000 photographs but she hid them all – rather zealously – hoarding them in boxes and many rolls of film remaining undeveloped. One of Vivian’s storage lockers containing boxes and boxes of negatives and undeveloped film was auctioned off in Chicago in 2007 and a local historian purchased them and ended up finding more than he bargained for and her work has become celebrated and is responsible for a huge resurgence of street photography as an art. You can see more about the discovery here and the unraveling story of Finding Vivian Maier.
Vivian’s life fascinates me. I wonder who she was and why she photographed the subjects she did and perhaps most obviously, why did she hide them? She captured a rawness of America in its post-war haze and yet didn’t show a soul – that we know of. I wonder if she even cared about the photograph after she took it. I remember reading that Henri Cartier Bresson had no interest in the photograph after he has captured it and I wonder if she was the same. He, like Vivian was also intensely private and Bresson in fact had a complete lack of interest in the whole process of photography.
I love stopping every now and then as I walk past my bookshelf to pick up The Vivian Maier book to finger the pages and absorb the photographs. It’s an incredible story and it makes me really think more about the “Why” of a photograph and therefore the Photographer, rather than simply the “How”.