You might not know Vivien Maier. And that’s totally fine. Vivian Maier worked as a nanny for more than 40 years. In her free time, she took pictures of people on streets.

Fascinated by her life and work, I learned some great new things about photography.

Finding Vivian Maier.

Vivian Maier became famous for her street photographs only after she died. During her lifetime, she was unknown, and all her work unpublished. She was ‘just’ a nanny, living a normal life. 

John Maloof discovered some of her work and started to publish it. And her work went viral, and exhibitions of her work around the world popped up. John Maloof also created this great documentary about Vivian’s life (which I highly recommend watching).

So let's get into it. Here's what I learned from Vivian Maier's life and her photographs.

Create. Don’t share.

This is probably the most important one with the biggest impact. Vivian took tens of thousands of pictures. Really great pictures, actually. However, no one in her life really knew how stunning those pictures are. 

vivian maier

No one saw her as an artist. No one knew how artistic her photographic skill set was.

Simply, because she never shared them. 

As she didn’t care about how her work is perceived by others, or how she must take a picture in order to generate the most likes, she could solely focus on the process of creating.

Don’t fake it. 

When looking at the work of Vivian Maier, you can feel the purity and authenticity of her pictures.

On the contrary, today’s social media-driven world teaches us to photoshop, optimize, filter, and edit our photographs in order to make them share-worthy. 

After scrolling through various Instagram accounts, you feel that you’ve seen them all.

People copy styles from so-called influencers (aka people with a lot of followers). And as we do so, your photograph becomes just another piece of imagery.

Visual storytelling.

Vivian Maier traveled the world. But most of her work took place in the cities she lived in. As photographers, we aim to find new stories somewhere else, in other cities and countries.

Great photos can be had in your hometown, too. Just go to the places where life happens. Markets, squares, downtown—go to where the action is, and you’ll find interesting stuff!

Don’t be a gear nerd.

Vivian Maier seemed to not really care about the latest piece of technology. She used a Kinaflex twin-lens reflex camera. 

kinaflex

You don’t need the latest iPhone or DSLR to create stunning, unique visuals. 

Gear does not matter. Your creativity does.

As someone who spends a lot of time (and money) with researching and testing the latest technologies, I have to admit that this was quite a harsh learning for me. 

Gear is just a tool to vent your creativity.

Conclusion

It's been a refreshing look at what photography can be. Vivian Maier taught me to shoot pictures for myself, and not to worry to0 much about what others think about my work.