I had not heard of Vivian Maier until this evening, a show of her photographic work opens tomorrow at the Chicago Cultural Center.

John Maloof, the man who purchased/discovered her photographs and negatives at a Chicago auction house (which were part of a lot of boxes saved from a storage locker that Ms. Maier had rented but was no longer able to pay the fees for) runs a blog which features Vivian’s work and the story that he has pieced together about her life.

The story is amazing but also very depressing*. Why has Chicago been home to all of these undiscovered, secret geniuses, I imagine there have probably been even more here, in NYC…

*it makes me incredibly sad to think about one’s life work ending up stuffed into a box at a store like Junk in Williamsburg or at an auction house in anywhere, usa…

the idea/inevitability of fading into obscurity does certainly cause many (myself included) anxiety from time to time (hence most people’s tendency to breed and carry on the family line!) since i have such a tiny family and do not plan on creating any sort of family of my own, i imagine that my photographs and negatives very well might end up in a junk heap too, not that i am claiming to be a secret genius like Vivian Maier and think my photographs deserve/need to be seen by the world… but i would like the reassurance that my photo stuff might go somewhere, anywhere, where it might be appreciated, flipped through, discussed (wouldn’t all artistes like this?) every now and again, forever and ever, until the end of time (or, really, even just one day a year, on a special occasion!), when i die, rather than thinking about my dusty and aged photographic prints on the racks of the local thrift store, thumbed through carelessly and mocked by the neighborhood’s current population, or even worse, incinerated at the greenpoint garbage dump.

thinking about one’s own mortality and the reality that the majority of humans are NOT remembered FOREVER, whatever that means, or even for a few years after their death, can really get one down, especially when faithless and not convinced there is a better, happier place to go to after we leave our current reality (ahhhh, existential malaise why are you visiting me this evening). bones down in the dirt, or ashes floating out to sea, disintegrating, that’s what i imagine, nothing more. your one chance at any sort of immortality really does rely on the very slight chance that something that you have created might be deemed genius and therefore protected from destruction.

Vivian Maier’s story really makes me wonder how many other especially talented creators who were loners, anti-social, shy freaks, without families, and/or friends, have faded into obscurity after their deaths… how many people who should be recognized for their talents and accomplishments, and known by US, will never be acknowledged, known, and are just gone. the number is most likely great. i imagine these forgotten, undiscovered folk, who chose to spend their time making art for art’s sake and satisfying a need within themselves, rather than worrying about promoting themselves, trying to get famous, are most likely the ones who made the more important work.


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