Inspired By: Vivian Maier

It's again the 10th of the month and time for the "Inspired by" creation! But what is Inspired by? Every month awesome Marsha and I choose a subject to be inspired by. It can be an idea (link)a word (link)a product (link)a movie (link)a designer (link) or a book (link). Or anything! Then we make something inspired by that theme or a piece of art and share it with you and each other on the 10th of the month. You can browse the past "Inspired By" posts from here (link).

This time we chose Vivian Maier as our source. I'm not totally sure anymore how we came by it - maybe it was that I messaged Marsha that I was looking at this wonderful document about the photographer and she knew her already and actually had been following the discovery of her photos years back.

But who is Vivian Maier? That's a trickier question as one might expect. Vivian Maier was infact a nanny. But she loved taking photographs and had such a great eye! The biggest surprise in the story is that all of her work was discover after her death. Nowadays she's one of the great street photographers but while she was alive, she didn't show her amazing photographs to anyone. The people she was working for noticed her enthusiasm for taking photos, but none of them ever saw the pictures they saw her take. Until now, that is.

If you want to know more about Vivian Maier, here's the Wikipedia link (link). But I think the best way to explore this artists is through her amazing photographs. You can see a bunch of those in here, in her official website (link). There's also a wonderful documentary about her called "Finding Vivian Maier" so if you have a chance to see it, watch it as it unravels the mystery a bit (only to find new mysteries inside, though).

Because Vivian was in fact a street photographer I took my camera and went outside. It was a huge leap of faith! In the documentary they say that one of the cameras Vivian used was a Rolleiflex. In this camera you look down to the camera to focus and aim the camera rather than lifting it to your eye and over your face. To me that was something of a key point. What I've witnessed in countless family parties and gatherings is that when people realize you're taking photographs, they freeze. The natural expressions and way to act is gone. So I needed to mimic the way that camera operates when I started shooting the pictures. I just took my SLR camera, hang it to my neck and rested my hand on top.

I had noway to know what exactly I was shooting and couldn't make the best composition, but I had the element of secrecy on my side. It was actually quite fun to go through the photos I had taken to see what they were like. There were both happy and sad surprises. There were pictures that turned out way more interesting than I thought they would but there were also many cases where I thought I had captured a certain situation - like three construction guys eating their sandwiches side by side on a bench - and only had ground showing or a blurry image.

While I was taking the photos I wished so much that I'd have had cameras in my eyes so to say, a way to capture the fleeting moment through my eyes with blinking. Because what this little excursion did, was to open my eyes. I started to look things and people and places and peoples gestures, facial expressions and everything in a new, more keen way. Without staring, that is. The camera around my neck and the idea of taking photos around the town really trained my observation skills and pushed me to look differently.

Besides seeing, the excursion also required quite a lot courage to take the plunge. After I had taken some pictures it got easier but the thought of going to the street and instead of being a tourist and taking pictures of houses, in fact taking photos of people, was scary. Not sure why, but still it was. But I'm so happy that I did it!

After my little excursion I had quite a few photos but didn't know what to do with those. First I thought leaving the project there, just doing a video with the photos or something, but then I wanted to have something more concrete. So I edited the photos, ordered them in mini size from a photo printing company and spread them out on to a table.

As the photos were taken in Helsinki I decided to do a scrapbooking page about my home town. My first idea was to use many of the photos and make a collage kind of background with them but putting the photos side by side by side on top of a 12x12" sheet made them a mess. I mean you had these photos but none of them stood out and the outlook wasn't that interesting, either. So instead I chose just four and made them into a page.

I really wanted to include a photo of me in there so even if the photo in question was shot in a different way than the rest of the pictures, I included that in there. The top most photo in the page is the very first I took while having a cup of tea at Pasila train station. Then there's a shot from the street and the bottom most, even if it's quite dull as a picture, showed something about the town nowadays. People hurrying by the beggar, Burger King logo shining...

Above you can see the whole layout. As you can see, I used very little elements in the page except the photos. I wanted them to have the center of attention and kept the color scheme neutral, even a bit dull. There's just some tea colored watercolor in the background and some stamping.

The embellishments which I included the page also have a reason. Vivian Maier was a sort of a hoarder. People in the documentary remember her saving anything and everything, especially newspapers. But she also had several knick-knacks in her collection. So the idea was to use "household treasures" in the page. So there's a few paperclips and buttons to decorate the page. The black fabric button is actually from my grandmother's dress. She and Vivian were off quite same age, actually...

Thank you so much for stopping by today! I hope you managed to read through the whole post! Now it's time to see Marsha has made! So please click here to see Marsha's take on the subject (link)! Wishing you a lovely start to the weekend!

Materials: 7 Dots Studio, Prima Marketing, Ranger


Marsha Valk said...

Cool!!! This is exactly what I would have done if it weren't for my huge to do list! And... I sooooo want to see more of the photos you took!!

Dawn C. said...

Your approach sounds very interesting. I find that sometimes if I focus too much on getting the perfect picture I miss out on life and do not notice what is happening around me. I may just try your interesting method! Thank you for sharing your idea!

Kathy Bradley said...

Riikka - I love, love your page and the story about Vivian Maier. I have seen a few people just walking around snapping pictures of anything and everything - and often wondered what was behind their photos. I suppose it is just snapping pics of life. Thanks for sharing your beautiful page and commentary - it was awesome.

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