Walk. Observe. Snap

I just watched a documentation about Vivian Maier in Finding Vivian Maier (2013) directed by John Maloof and Charlie Siskel. I didn’t have any knowledge about her before, but after I watched 2 hours of her eccentric style and work, I fell in love in an instant. Vivian Dorothea Maier was an eccentric street photographer. But she never felt to be entitled with the job, because she worked for about forty years as a nanny. She pursued photography only during her spare time, and by that time she produced about 100,000 photos about her life. The film director’s, John Maloof acquired some of Maier’s photos in 2007, and published on the internet in July 2008. Since then her work began to gain recognition from the world.

Vivian Maier was eccentric, she was identified by her former people as creepy, socially awkward, and hard to deal with. She chose to be a nanny during her lifetime so she could snap anything she wanted with Rolleiflex camera without worrying so much about her bills. She got the life that she wanted. But, she never had the chance/will to publish her work.

Today, in an era of ramification of technology, act of sharing is one of the easiest thing to do. Everyone has the chance to publish their work, their photos, their thoughts. Everyone can produce their content and let everyone knows. I bet it’s hard to find people like me (generation Y) who dislike sharing. Instead, they will let every single person in the internet knows what is happening with their life at any time.

I can’t blame the lack of technology back then. Vivian Maier snapped everything, sometimes documented situation in a short video, and recorded her own voice to express her opinion towards something, especially anything on news. She acted like those were twitter nowadays, to express her thoughts towards something. But she never meant to be a photojournalist, or a writer, or a columnist. She just loved to judge life with her own opinion, expressed in her photos and voice recorder. I wonder if Instagram had been found at that time, would Vivian Maier sign up for an account? Or would she hate it?

Vivian Maier's Work
Vivian Maier’s Work

She was a natural street photographer. The 100,000 photos of her were reviewed to be extremely sharp in describing human life. She had an authentic eye, a real savvy of human nature. She was gifted with ability of human understanding with warmth, playfulness, great sense of framing, oh and sense of humour, tragedy. The film also focused on how she conducted a shot, some said she didn’t impoverished the scene, the people, she just went with the way it was. Vivian Maier stalked the streets without company, keeping her work private. That’s the art of street photographer, you take a picture, you feel and involved with the moment, but at the same time you keep your distance and be an observer.

Now everyone non photographer can experience street photographer with instagram. It’s so overwhelming that many professional street photographers have to catch up with instagram, or they will lose their job, compared to newbies who are willing to be paid cheaper. But, it doesn’t mean that the era of photography is over. The fact that the game has changed and everyone must ready about it.

Now, Vivian Maier is inspiring that I think I should treat my instagram page like any of her work. Focuses on human nature, slice up the moment and freeze it in a square format. But I notice some of instagram junkie in Indonesia, mostly the one who gain recognition and popular are not pursuing street photography as their instagram theme. They rather modified street photographer concept with other human as the main actor, replace the “other human” with themselves. Wait, should I call it a self-potrait then?

Well to understand a self-potrait, we should differ it from selfie either. Selfies and self-potrait have the intention, they show a social and financial status, honorific, inherent privileges, capture a person as a fleeting presence in the moment, or can be a method of communication, one part of a larger contextual conversation. (Read here for further information). Self – portraits are created to be read as an art, are displayed in museums or galleries, and we are granted permission to view them as a product from the artist. Selfies, are created to be read as a form of communication, a series of contextual interactions and are connected to the selfie-maker in an intimate, embodied and sense of themselves.

So, I think if you want to add more artistic value with yourself as the main point in the photo, it should be called as a self-potrait, instead of selfies. A lot of grammers in Indonesia, I reiterate, are mixing the concept of street photographers (candid style), with themselves as the main character (so it is combined with self-potrait). Furthermore, they are heavily influenced with the kinspiracy , an eerie phenomena amongst Kinfolk’s readers on Instagram to take photos with identical style. Voila! There you go, a bunch of photos with yourself as a model and form of art.

So, how would you manage your instagram feed?

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