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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 July 3, 2020

    30 Small Habits To Lead A More Peaceful Life

    30 Small Habits To Lead A More Peaceful Life

    In today’s world, true peace must come from within us and our own actions. Here are 30 small things you can do on a regular basis to increase your overall sense of harmony, peace, and well-being:

    1. Don’t go to every fight you’re invited to

    Particularly when you’re around those who thrive on chaos, be willing to decline the invitation to join in on the drama.

    2. Focus on your breath

    Throughout the day, stop to take a few deep breaths. Keep stress at bay with techniques such as “square breathing.” Breathe in for four counts, hold for four counts, then out for four counts, and hold again for four counts. Repeat this cycle four times.

    3. Get organized and purge old items

    A cluttered space often creates a cluttered spirit. Take the time to get rid of anything you haven’t used in a year and invest in organizational systems that help you sustain a level of neatness.

    4. Stop yourself from being judgmental

    Whenever you are tempted to have an opinion about someone else’s life, check your intentions. Judging others creates and promotes negative energy.

    5. Say ‘thank you’ early and often

    Start and end each day with an attitude of gratitude. Look for opportunities in your daily routine and interactions to express appreciation.

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    6. Smile more

    Even if you have to “fake it until you make it,” there are many scientific benefits of smiling and laughing. Also, pay attention to your facial expression when you are doing neutral activities such as driving and walking. Turn that frown upside down!

    7. Don’t worry about the future

    As difficult as this sounds, there is a direct connection between staying in the present and living a more peaceful life. You cannot control the future. As the old proverb goes, “Worry is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it won’t get you anywhere.” Practice gently bringing your thoughts back to the present.

    8. Eat real food

    The closer the food is to the state from which it came from the earth, the better you will feel in eating it. Choose foods that grew from a plant over food that was made in a plant.

    9. Choose being happy over being right

    Too often, we sacrifice inner peace in order to make a point. It’s rarely worth it.

    10. Keep technology out of the bedroom

    Many studies, such as one conducted by Brigham and Women’s Hospital, have connected blue light of electronic devices before bed to adverse sleep and overall health. To make matters worse, many people report that they cannot resist checking email and social media when their cell phone is in reach of their bed, regardless of the time.

    11. Make use of filtering features on social media

    You may not want to “unfriend” someone completely, however you can choose whether you want to follow their posts and/or the sources of information that they share.

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    12. Get comfortable with silence

    When you picture someone who is the ultimate state of peace, typically they aren’t talking.

    13. Listen to understand, not to respond

    So often in conversations, we use our ears to give us cues about when it is our turn to say what we want to say. Practice active listening, ask questions, process, then speak.

    14. Put your troubles in a bubble

    Whenever you start to feel anxious, visualize the situation being wrapped in a bubble and then picture that sphere floating away.

    15. Speak more slowly

    Often a lack of peace manifests itself in fast or clipped speech. Take a breath, slow down, and let your thoughtful consideration drive your words.

    16. Don’t procrastinate

    Nothing adds stress to our lives like waiting until the last minute.

    17. Buy a coloring book

    Mandala coloring books for adults are becoming more popular because of their connection to creating inner peace.

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    18. Prioritize yourself

    You are the only person who you are guaranteed to live with 24 hours a day for the rest of your life.

    19. Forgive others

    Holding a grudge is hurting you exponentially more than anyone else. Let it go.

    20. Check your expectations

    Presumption often leads to drama. Remember the old saying, “Expectations are premeditated resentments.”

    21. Engage in active play

    Let your inner child come out and have some fun. Jump, dance, play, and pretend!

    22. Stop criticizing yourself

    The world is a hard enough place with more than enough critics. Your life is not served well by being one of them.

    23. Focus your energy and attention on what you want

    Thoughts, words, and actions all create energy. Energy attracts like energy. Put out what you want to get back.

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    24. Assign yourself “complaint free” days.

    Make a conscious decision not to complain about anything for a whole day. It might be harder than you think and the awareness will stick with you.

    25. Surround yourself with people you truly enjoy being in the company of

    Personalities tend to be contagious, and not everyone’s is worth catching. Be judicious in your choices.

    26. Manage your money

    Financial concerns rank top on the list of what causes people stress. Take the time each month to do a budget, calculate what you actually spend and sanity check that against the money you have coming in.

    27. Stop trying to control everything

    Not only is your inner control freak sabotaging your sense of peace, it is also likely getting in the way of external relationships as well.

    28. Practice affirmations

    Repeat positive phrases that depict the life and qualities you want to attract. It may not come naturally to you, but it works.

    29. Get up before sunrise

    Personally witnessing the dawn brings a unique sense of awe and appreciation for life.

    30. Be yourself

    Nothing creates more inner discord than trying to be something other than who we really are. Authenticity breeds happiness.

    Featured photo credit: man watching sunrise via stokpic.com

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