Exquisite joy has come my way from two directions in the last 24 hours, and both of these treasures came from the printed word–from magazines to be exact. As long as I can remember, reading has been my salvation; beauty has been my inspiration; and whatever is different, eccentric, creative, intelligent, and of substance has fed my soul.
While cleaning out a stack of magazines I had set aside but never found time to read, I flipped through the first magazine, called Taproot, and discovered this quote by George Bernard Shaw which encapsulates who I am and what I try to do every day of my life.
Born the son of an Irish civil servant in 1856, George Bernard Shaw had little use for formal education and was not expected to amount to much. Shaw had other ideas and moved to London at the age of 20 and became a theatre and music critic.
Not content to simply criticize the work of others, he wrote a novel in 1891 and began writing plays. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1925 and won an Oscar in 1938 for his work on Pygmalion, a film based on his play of the same name which would be remade in the 1960’s as My Fair Lady starring the divine Audrey Hepburn. Shaw is the only person to ever win both a Nobel Prize and an Oscar.
Following his own admonition of “being thoroughly worn out before being thrown on the scrap heap”, he died at the age of 94 from injuries he received from falling off a ladder. Now that’s a life vigorously lived!
My second epiphany was discovering against-all-odds the photography of Vivian Maier as shown in an article from the latest issue of Bust magazine.
Born in 1926, Maier was raised in America and France, and was a nanny to a succession of children from the 1950’s through the 1990’s. On her days off, she took her camera into the streets of New York, San Francisco, Chicago, or whatever city in which she lived–sometimes accompanied by the children in her charge.
Apparently her photos were for her own creative enrichment since she never had most of the 100,000 or so images developed. Her photography would never have been seen if a young man named John Maloof. He was looking for photography to illustrate a book he was writing and purchased the contents of Maier’s abandoned storage facility in 2009 (just after her death) for $380.
Many critics and art lovers find her work to be among the best photography of the mid-20th century–and others would venture to say she is one of the best photographers, period. I am among the latter since her work delightfully encapsulates all the serendipitous beauty and magic found in everyday people and things–which as it happens is what inspires me to write this blog.
Three books on Maier are currently available: Vivian Maier: Self Portraits and Vivian Maier: A Life Through the Lens by John Maloof, as well as Vivian Maier: Out of the Shadows by Richard Cahan.
Also check out the movie trailer from Maloof’s 2013 documentary about Maier’s life as he tracks down the people who she worked for and the children who she helped raise.
Obviously Vivian Maier was not content to be just a governess. On her days off she roamed the grittier parts of the large cities and captured people being uniquely themselves. She wanted more; George Bernard Shaw wanted more. And I am here to tell you, I have always wanted more! Go on, use “yourself for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one”! Live large, live small, but live you.
//Anna – 4/23/2014