Saturday, July 19, 2014

An Affair With Art

Today my father posted a link to a video about Vivian Maier. Up until today, I'd never actually heard about her. Turns out, she's a fabulous street photographer who spent the majority of her life documenting the world around her. As I watched the video, I was amazed by this unique woman who to this day has remained a virtual mystery. This artist captured thousands of moments through her camera lens and yet she died without anyone knowing about them. The negatives were only discovered when a storage locker was being auctioned off when she couldn't keep up the payments on it.

Determined to find out more, I turned to the internet. Really, the whole scenario fascinated, not just because this woman kept her passion a secret, but because her creative eye was so clearly a part of who she was and so many people who shared a piece of her life insist they didn't have any idea how extensive her catalogue had grown. Sure, they saw her with a camera, but they didn't see how important it was. It doesn't make sense. I mean, she had a hundred thousand negatives. Who doesn't notice that?

Anyhow, both the article and video detailed how solitary Vivian Maier was, how she had these introverted tendencies, and this desire to be anonymous. On the other hand, she was also a liberal woman who freely gave her opinion to anyone willing to listen. These two sides of her personality only intrigues me more. As I read the article and watched the short film, I became bothered by how people viewed her. This woman who amazed and captivated me, who I saw as a creative genius and someone to admire, was coming off very different to others.

They called her pitiful. Lonely. Sad. Alone. They talked about how terrible it was that she kept this hobby to herself. How she hid who she was. One girl talked about how heartbreaking it was that she could capture these relationships with her camera but never was able to have an intimate relationship of her own. No children. No husband. No family. No close friends. What a tragedy her life was!

Except, this wasn't how I saw it. Having these people talk about how unfulfilled Miss Maier must have been aggravated me. They clearly missed the most beautiful relationship she had.

We glorify human affection and grow up thinking getting married and having kids are the most important goals a person can have. We are supposed to spend time with our friends and family, to miss them when they are not around, and to covet hand holding and soft kisses. The problem with this is: we are all different. Some of us don't thrive on human interaction. Some of us are quite happy alone. Some of us seek peace of mind through other channels.

To me, Vivian did have an intimate relationship ... with her camera. A love affair with her art. This was her passion, her pleasure, something she thrived on doing. By not sharing these pictures with the world, she is telling us she loved her art, adored seeing the world through her viewfinder, and searching for the perfect frame. She needed nothing in return and was content to walk the streets and witness what other people passed by, these things people were too busy to notice. Vivian Maier captured tender human emotions and documented history, dictating which moments were to be immortalized through the lens of her camera. It saddens me that people have so grossly misunderstood her.

More than her camera and her art, Vivian had a relationship with herself. It baffles me that these people don't see how gorgeous and unique this woman was. She is not defined by a husband or children, friends or family. She is defined by her passion and the most important relationship in her life - her art.

I highly encourage you to check her out. She's beautiful.

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