Unearthing A Treasure: Vivian Maier

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   by Edward    Leave a comment  →

Who said that in this day and age, there’s no more buried treasure?

This morning, I woke up to an amazing story, kind of those you see in a movie.

John Maloof, an ordinary guy, bought a box of film negatives from an auction. He found almost 30.000 film negatives inside the box, a collectoin of works from an unknown photographer. When he began scanning them, he knew he had found a treasure. He contacted other buyers that bought the rest of the boxes and bought them also. Now he has 100.000 negatives and tens of rolls of undeveloped film in his attic.

The photographer name is Vivian Maier, an ordinary woman, born in the 20’s who worked as a nanny in Chicago. On her free time, she wonder around the streets with her Rolleiflex and started to shoot everything. And the frames she shot, oh man. (images taken from http://vivianmaier.com/)

As you can see, the pictures are beautifully breathtaking. They remind us to the works of photojournalism greats like Robert Frank, Robert Doisneau and Henry Cartier-Besson. Vivian Maier could be one of the greatest artist whose work is still undiscovered. I mean, before Maloof start to scan them and post them online, nobody has ever seen her work. Here’s the romance of the story emerges: the found is like a treasure chest, buried deep in the earth, where nobody knows about it.

It led me to think. In an age of photoblogs and exhibitions, online journals and portfolios, where creative people are racing to display and flaunt their work, waiting to hear gratification, praise and appreciation for our creation, can there still be a Vivian amongst us? Someone who is totally passionate about her craft, and just keep producing beautiful results, day after day after day and then some more, without thinking what would other people think? I mean, the lady shot 100.000 frames in her life that nobody knows about. And they’re not crap. They’re masterpieces.

Can we do that?

Can we shoot great stuff without appreciation from other people, and still be fueled with passion and pick up the camera the next day?

Also, she’s definetely shooting for herself, which is the best assignment in the world in my opinon :)

Can we stay true to our craft, to our style, to shooting the stuff that we love, and not slowly drifting to the dark side of business, which is doing whatever the paying client wants?

Contrary to popular belief, which is ‘to made it, you must be willing to do anything, because client is king’, great artists produce stuff that they like, doing things that they want. Vivian is not shooting for anybody else, she’s shooting for herself. The fact that the result of her passion will make some money comes second.

The last thing came to my mind about this Maier story:

Can we appriciate art as it is?

I mean, the art industry value a piece of work based on who’s doing it. Reputation and brand always comes first before the quality of the work.

The negative side of this way of thinking is that crap coming from a well known artist will be valued much higher, and if you’re a nobody, well, nobody will think your work is any good.

Can people, curators, respectables and experts, value a Vivian Maier frame as it is? As a beautiful photograph, and nothing more? Can the dollar value of her work shoot up, regardless of the fact that an unknown nanny shot it on her spare time?

I would love to hear your thoughts on these questions.

The stuff you see here is just the tip of the iceberg. Up until now, only 10.000 frames have been seen and scanned. There’s still another 90.000 gems to unearth. You can follow the journey here: www.vivianmaier.com The photography circles are hot with this story, you will sure to hear more about her in the coming weeks/months.

Below is the whole story featured on a news program. More photographs here. You gotta watch’em.

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