Wednesday, June 1, 2016

My Vivian Maier Day


Caribbean music plays in the distance, a refreshing breeze blows across my face. I am pleasantly warm, but not sweaty. A perfect day at the beach.


Suddenly my eyes pop open, those aren't the sounds of the Caribbean I hear in the distance, that is my alarm. I reach over the side of the bed, grab my phone off the charger and tap the screen to stop the music. I look at the time on the screen, ten minutes after five. I have been sleeping through my alarm for ten minutes. How did that happen? Then I remembered, last night before going to bed, I had set the fan on medium instead of low, to help clear the stuffy air out of the bedroom. Obviously medium is much louder.


I don't have to be anywhere early, I just don't like to deviate from my normal routine.  I lie back on my pillow. I was having the best dream, in it I was Vivian Maier, the mysterious street photographer of the 1950's and 60's. She built an intriguing and sometimes haunting body of black and white street photography work over her lifetime, a body of work that wasn't discovered until after her death. I have been fascinated with her story since the moment I heard it, to have such amazing work and never share it, seems so sad.


Vivan also had a unique talent for captivating self-portraits. These were often captured in the reflections of building windows and doors. I envision myself as Vivian Maier every time I take my own self-portraits.


I recently spent the day in Michigan City, Indiana. Another place that has been on my bucket list for a long time. For the past twenty years I have made almost yearly trips to Michigan City, not to photograph, but to shop. There is huge outlet mall there, the first of it's kind in our midwest area. I would stare longing out the car window as we drove through the deteriorating downtown, the storefronts boarded up, with peeling paint, and crumbling bricks.  Buildings like those give me the same rush that a heroin addict probably feels when they press the contents of the needle into the vein of their arm.


For twenty years I tortured myself by driving by those buildings in favor of bright, shiny and new. Bright, shiny and new really isn't my thing.


As I stood on the corner in front of my first high of the day, I wondered what people thought as they saw me photographing an old derelict building. Were they curious? Were they envious? Were they suspicious? As I knelt on the pavement in front of that former barber shop, photographing it from every angle, I envisioned a documentary photographer following me around for the day, capturing me capturing the things I love. Not that I enjoy having my photograph taken, I would just like to see what other people see as I photograph.

Where I deviate from Vivian Maier is that I would like for people to see my work before I die. I would like to have conversations about it, and about their work. I want to encourage others to do the things that give them those euphoric moments, just as photographing old buildings does for me.

18 comments:

  1. How lovely to have a dream in which you were Vivian Maier! I love her street photography and realize that a lot of my own self-portraits are reflections and shadows! They are the most amusing, I find!

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  2. As always excellent photos and an interesting story to go with them. Thanks for the tip on Vivian Maier. I have booked marked her web page and will check it out later.

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  3. My heart would have done a little dance when these old buildings came into view. So glad you made the trip to photograph them and share them with us. I'm smiling at your thoughts of someone following you around photographing you as you photograph. I'm sure as we take pictures, we make an interesting sight to see!

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  4. How fantastic, to know what moves you, and then go out and capture it, with your camera!!!!!!

    I will use your link, to find out more about an artist in photography, that I never heard of before. Thank you.

    And thank you for this post! I love the Victorian type architecture in my old city. All of it, but..... the ornate way they did lovely tops of down street buildings. Used for commerce. But they did such lovely work!

    Which no one notices. Because how many people do you see walking along, looking up!!!! -smile- OK, don't take a chance on falling.. But do look up, now and then. When surrounded by such almost hidden beauty.

    So why am I not taking pictures of them??!!?? :-)

    Thank you for setting me, to think about this question!!!

    Tessa

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  5. What a fun dream! I can see why you wouldn't want to give it up and wake up. :-) Great post, too. There's an old building here that I drive by often, each time thinking that it would be a great subject to photograph. I feel shy about stopping, since it's not exactly a public space. But I suppose if someone didn't like it, they would just tell me to leave, right?

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  6. Girl - your work IS being seen while you're still walking this earth! Keep up the curious enjoyment of your "highs"!

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  7. Old derelict buildings are so photogenic! I often wonder myself what people are thinking when I am taking photos of something not usually photographed. I use to worry and try to go quick as not to be noticed. But the older I get the more I realize it really doesn't matter how I look. :) Loved your images and post!

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  8. A great post, Sarah! The fascinating documentary on Vivian has been broadcast also here a couple of times. I feel you've captured her kind of spirit rather beautifully.

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  9. Will have to check out her work, thanks to you!! Thanks Sarah!

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  10. Glad to hear you passed on the shopping. As I left Dallas last week I asked myself, the mall? or the north route? The answer was easy since it might be the only chance to take the north route by myself and take my time. I wasn't disappointed. Love all your selfies.

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  11. Every time I see an old building I think of you. The way you weave your story is wonderful.

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  12. Yet again we think alike...I recently read her book ...well the book about her and her street photography. I wrote about it and ever since, I have had an interest in street photography. I have never had an interest in self-portraits though..I feel a bit uncomfortable with that and the few times I did try...my photo's did not come out good. Totally out of focus most times...but I bet I could do better with the window scene...your beach photo here is great. You really get self-portraits...
    Then also like you, I sure would like my work seen before I die and I hope for the most part...the people who it would be important to would understand my love of life, photography and them...
    A lovely post...and a lovely dream...dream on Sarah.

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  13. I watched the special on HBO about Vivian Maier. She was quite a woman and had a rather distressing life. It is too bad she did not live to see how much her "street" photography is now appreciated. I have driven down those same streets in Michigan City and it surely delights you with your love of the old and tarnished, but it also makes me sad to see a once upon a time town, now almost deserted.

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  14. Her street photography was amazing! I love that photo of you in the old window. Awesome!

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  15. Street photography is on my bucket list of things to try. I could sit and look at Vivian's photos for hours. Like you, I have a love for the old and forgotten. I really enjoyed this post!

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  16. What an interesting dream, Sarah!
    And about an interesting woman.
    Such a sense of mystery surrounds her, and that, to me is as equally appealing as her photography.
    Have a wonderful weekend!

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  17. It would be something to know some of the stories behind her pictures plus what drove and inspired her work.

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  18. It is a shame her work was not shared in her lifetime, but maybe that is what she preferred. And all those undeveloped rolls of film!! She never saw what she captured on them. Maybe she enjoyed the moment of taking the image.

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Thank you so much for visiting today and taking the time to read my thoughts on life. :)