April 01, 2013

Undiscovered photos and Vivian Maier - street photographer

It's possible my absence around here (although I did post two days ago ;) ) has tipped you off, but lately I'm feeling a little social media'd/internet-ed out. This "look at me" world, obsessed with enumerating "likes" and "friends" has a tendency to drain the energy from an introvert like me sometimes. Often, instead of interacting, I just want to read....to browse the work of other artists, authors, chefs and photographers.

I'm especially drawn to street photographers. Probably because I can't imagine having the guts to just walk around shooting photos of strangers all day. What if they don't want their photo taken? What if they catch me and yell at me? Yeah...what if?? If I follow that question through to an answer, it probably wouldn't actually be that bad. But the act of seemingly invading someone's privacy both creeps me out and fascinates me at the same time. So far, I've been too intimidated to even try it.

When my dad died, my mom gave me his cameras. One of them is a Yashica Mat-124 G which is a medium format film camera. It intimidates me a little so I've never used it .

Recently I realized it has a roll of film inside with six exposed images. Six shots my dad took that we have never seen. I can't wait to get them printed because to me, seeing them will be like peeking into my dad's experience for a moment....will feel like having a new conversation with him....something I can no longer do. It's exciting and emotional at the same time. First I have to expose the other six frames which I started doing this weekend. I'm rushing this step a bit because I want to take that film out and develop it, but I'm also having fun shooting with a totally different kind of camera.

Going through this process reminded me of a story I heard a few years ago. You may have already heard of Vivian Maier but if not, spend a few minutes and watch the Youtube videos below. Her story and her photography are fascinating. She has rightly been referred to as one of the most important street photographers of the 20th century. Only....no one ever saw her work until after she died in 2009. Here's her story:

**Apparently with the iOS 6 update, embedded Youtube videos can't be seen on iPads anymore. Boo!! So I've attached some ugly but necessary links to these videos for anyone reading on an iPad. Scroll down for video links and the rest of the post...**

Finding Vivian Maier trailer:

Vivian Maier: Street photographer and nanny:

You can also follow some of her work on Instagram: @vivianmaier.

I love learning about people who do something for the sheer love of the thing and not because they need anyone else's praise to make them feel better about their work. I guess that's why I'm so fascinated with Vivian Maier's story. To be so talented, to have recorded such a vast amount of visual history of the streets of New York and Chicago and to not have shared it with anyone....wow. I'm  torn between admiring her self-confidence and feeling sad that no one else could appreciate her work while she was still alive.

I can't wait to see the rest of the documentary film "Finding Vivian Maier".


  1. That sounds like an interesting story. I'll have to take a look.

    It's exciting to find the pictures you never saw. We have a camera somewhere that has undeveloped film. It will be a surprise to see what's on it since we can't remember. It's about 10 years old I think.

    1. Hi Tiffany
      It'll be interesting to see what you find! I figure even if they're not great photos, they'll be fun to see just for the memory factor :)

  2. Oh how exciting for you to find that film. Gosh, I remember taking pics with film and EVERY TIME I simply could not wait to get any film developed.... I hope that the pictures give you what you want them to. I know from losing my mom that whenever I found something of hers, I felt it was her just saying hi. Have a great weekend Janet, now off to watch your links.

    1. Thanks Tracey - I'm sorry to hear you've lost your mom. But you've expressed it perfectly - was like a little 'hello' from my dad :)

  3. What a great gift to have photos that you've never seen! That camera is pretty cool looking! I just bought an old Polaroid so that I can try out the Impossible Project film in it.
    I have barely blogged lately. Feeling internet over-stimulation. I find it easier to work on my personal design projects when I'm not taking it to much extra "stuff".

    1. Hi Rosa - gosh this comment was in my spam folder and I just found it now - so sorry!
      I hear you loud and clear...sometimes you just have to shut down/off and unwind the crazy until you find some kind of balance again ;)
      Hope the Polaroid project is going well?
      Thanks for your comment!

  4. Have you seen the photos yet?!! That is so cool, it is like a gift to see through his eyes. Can't wait to hear more about this in a few weeks!


Leave your comment here: Love to hear what you think :)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...