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The Photographer Nobody Knew: Lessons on Sharing Your Gifts With the World

The Photographer Nobody Knew: Lessons on Sharing Your Gifts With the World

It was 2007 and John Maloof was working on a book about Chicago’s northwest neighborhoods. On this particular day, he was hoping to find a few pictures from the 1960s that he could use in the book.

What he ended up finding was far more interesting.

After purchasing boxes full of negatives from a local auction house, Maloof began developing some of the images. When they finished processing, he was stunned. They were incredible. And there were tons of them. More than 30,000 in these boxes alone. Whoever had taken these pictures was surely one of the most prolific and talented American photographers of the last hundred years.

And yet, when Maloof looked up the photographer’s name, he couldn’t find her work anywhere else. In fact, after further searching, Maloof was fairly certain that nobody had ever heard of this woman. Her obituary never even mentioned that she was a photographer. She was a mystery, an unknown artist with world-class talent.

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“The Greatest Photographic Discovery”

The images discovered by Maloof were taken by a woman named Vivian Maier. [1]

For nearly 40 years, Maier worked as a nanny for wealthy families in Chicago and New York. During her many daily errands, excursions with the family children, and trips to other cities around the United States, Maier took nearly 150,000 photos of the people and architecture that surrounded her.

Maier’s work and backstory fascinated Maloof. Eventually, after processing thousands of images, he collected 100 of the best photos and posted them online.

People loved them. Major newspapers called to run stories about Maier’s work and wanted to know how Maloof discovered the images. Filmmakers called and decided to make two documentaries about the story including Finding Viviam Maier. Galleries began to exhibit her work throughout the United States, Europe, and Asia. The uncovering of Vivian Maier’s images has been referred to as the greatest photographic discovery of the 21st century. [2]

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The story raises plenty of questions, not just about Maier’s past, but also about our willingness to share our gifts with the world.

Share Your Work

We’ll never know the reasons why Vivian Maier decided to hide her work away in boxes. Maybe she didn’t feel that it was good enough. Maybe she wanted to share it, but didn’t know who to contact. Maybe she simply loved to create and wanted to keep her work private. (The last option seems unlikely as she did make a few attempts to publish her photos.)

Regardless of her reasons, two things are certain. First, the world is a better place because she chose to create something. And second, you shouldn’t wait for someone like John Maloof to share your work with the world.

The story of Vivian Maier is a wonderful reminder that we all carry some brilliance inside of us. But perhaps it is an even better reminder that nobody owes it to you to put your work out into the world. How easily could Maier’s work have been forgotten? How many other brilliant artists, creatives, scientists, and thinkers have their work hidden in boxes or tucked away in attics?

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What You Create vs. What You Share

share-your-work

    The world can only benefit from what it can see.

    Which talents are you keeping tucked away in boxes? Which ideas are you hesitating to share?

    We have a responsibility to share our work with the world, to contribute our talents to this little sliver of the universe. Choose to share your brilliance with the world.

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    Don’t wait for your John Maloof. Start before you feel ready.

    James Clear writes at JamesClear.com, where he shares science-based ideas for living a better life and building habits that stick. To get strategies for boosting your mental and physical performance by 10x, join his free newsletter.

    This article was originally published on JamesClear.com.

    Sources
    1. About Vivian Maier: History
    2. You can browse some of Vivian Maier’s images at vivianmaier.com.

    Featured photo credit: Coleccionando Camaras via flickr.com

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    Last Updated on September 12, 2019

    12 Things You Should Remember When Feeling Lost in Life

    12 Things You Should Remember When Feeling Lost in Life

    Even the most charismatic people you know, whether in person or celebrities of some sort, experience days where they feel lost in life and isolated from everyone else.

    While it’s good to know we aren’t alone in this feeling, the question still remains:

    What should we do when we feel lost and lonely?

    Here are 12 things to remember:

    1. Recognize That It’s Okay!

    The truth is, there are times you need to be alone. If you’ve always been accustomed to being in contact with people, this may prove difficult.

    However, learning how to be alone and comfortable in your own skin will give you confidence and a sense of self reliance.

    We cheat ourselves out of the opportunity to become self reliant when we look for constant companionship.

    Learn how to embrace your me time: What Your Fear of Being Alone Is Really About and How to Get over It

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    2. Use Your Lost and Loneliness as a Self-Directing Guide

    You’ve most likely heard the expression: “You have to know where you’ve been to know where you’re going.”

    Loneliness also serves as a life signal to indicate you’re in search of something. It’s when we’re in the midst of solitude that answers come from true soul searching.

    Remember, there is more to life than what you’re feeling.

    3. Realize Loneliness Helps You Face the Truth

    Being in the constant company of others, although comforting sometimes, can often serve as a distraction when we need to face the reality of a situation.

    Solitude cuts straight to the chase and forces you to deal with the problem at hand. See it as a blessing that can serve as a catalyst to set things right!

    4. Be Aware That You Have More Control Than You Think

    Typically, when we see ourselves as being lost or lonely, it gives us an excuse to view everything we come in contact with in a negative light. It lends itself to putting ourselves in the victim mode, when the truth of the matter is that you choose your attitude in every situation.

    No one can force a feeling upon you! It is YOU who has the ultimate say as to how you choose to react.

    5. Embrace the Freedom That the Feeling of Being Alone Can Offer

    Instead of wallowing in self pity, which many are prone to do because of loneliness, try looking at your circumstance as a new-found freedom.

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    Most people are in constant need of approval of their viewpoints. Try enjoying the fact that  you don’t need everyone you care about to support your decisions.

    6. Acknowledge the Person You Are Now

    Perhaps you feel a sense of loneliness and confusion because your life circumstances have taken you away from the persona that others know to be you.

    Perhaps the new you differs radically from the old. Realize that life is about change and how we react to that change. It’s okay that you’re not who you used to be.

    Take a look at this article and learn to accept your imperfect self: Accept Yourself (Flaws and All): 7 Benefits of Being Vulnerable

    7. Keep Striving to Do Your Best

    Often those who are feeling isolated and unto themselves will develop a defeatist attitude. They’ll do substandard work because their self esteem is low and they don’t care.

    Never let this feeling take away your sense of worth! Do your best always and when you come through this dark time, others will admire how you stayed determined in spite of the obstacles you had to overcome.

    And to live your best life, you must do this ONE thing: step out of your comfort zone.

    8. Don’t Forget That Time Is Precious

    When we’re lost in a sea of loneliness and depression, it’s all too easy to reflect on regrets of past life events. This does nothing but feed negativity and perpetuate the situation.

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    Instead of falling prey to this common pitfall, put one foot in front of the other and acknowledge every positive step you take. By doing this, you can celebrate the struggles you overcome at the end of the day.

    9. Remember, Things Happen for a Reason

    Every circumstance we encounter in our life is designed to teach us and that lesson is in turn passed on to others.

    Sometimes we’re fortunate enough to figure out the lesson to be learned, while other times, we simply need to have faith that if the lesson wasn’t meant directly for us to learn from, how we handled it was observed by someone who needed to learn.

    Your solitude and feeling of lost, in this instance, although painful possibly, may be teaching someone else.

    10. Journal During This Time

    Record your thoughts when you’re at the height of loneliness and feeling lost. You’ll be amazed when you reflect back at how you viewed things at the time and how far you’ve come later.

    This time (if recorded) can give you a keen insight into who you are and what makes you feel the way you feel.

    11. Remember You Aren’t the First to Feel This Way

    It’s quite common to feel as if we’re alone and no one else has ever felt this way before. We think this because at the time of our distress, we’re silently observing others around us who are seemingly fine in every way.

    The truth is, we can’t possibly know the struggles of those around us unless they elect to share them. We ALL have known this pain!

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    Try confiding in someone you trust and ask them how they deal with these feelings when they experienced it. You may be surprised at what you learn.

    12. Ask for Help If the Problem Persists

    The feeling of being lost and lonely is common to everyone, but typically it will last for a relatively short period of time.

    Most people will confess to, at one time or another, being in a “funk.” But if the problem persists longer than you feel it should, don’t ignore it.

    When your ability to reason and consider things rationally becomes impaired, do not poo poo the problem away and think it isn’t worthy of attention. Seek medical help.

    Afraid to ask for help? Here’s how to change your outlook to aim high!

    Final Thoughts

    Loneliness and a sense of feeling lost can in many ways be extremely painful and difficult to deal with at best. However, these feelings can also serve as a catalyst for change in our lives if we acknowledge them and act.

    Above anything, cherish your mental well being and don’t underestimate its worth. Seek professional guidance if you’re unable to distinguish between a sense of freedom for yourself and a sense of despair.

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    Featured photo credit: Andrew Neel via unsplash.com

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