For Vivian

For Vivian

Last night I went to see Finding Vivian Maier, a documentary about one of the most prolific and talented street photographers of the 20th century. She shot without publication, amassing hundreds of thousands of negatives that were only discovered and recognized for their brilliance after her death.

There seemed to be this sadness, over the course of the film, that Maier was not discovered sooner, that her talents were never recognized during her lifetime. She shot in obscurity, earning her full time living as a nanny. It was only after her death, the film narrative goes, that her art became celebrated.

But I see it differently. Art, the word, can act as a verb, not just a noun, and her life was a celebration of the verb. She shot and shot and shot out of a drive, a passion, that wasn’t tied to money or fame or prestige. She shot because it fed her soul, because it was a way to capture her truth. The true beauty of her work was not the piles and piles of negatives she left behind; the true beauty was in a life lived devoted to the act of capturing moments, for no other reason than because the moments were beautiful.

I woke up this morning and drove to Pine Point Beach, a beautiful stretch of sand about 20 minutes outside Portland. I brought my camera, and, inspired by Maier, searched for unnoticed beauty. It was raw and cold, the sand was still wet from the dew. I wandered to the breakwater and back in bare feet, looking for treasure. I was happy with what I found, the pictures I took. The moment, however, is not captured by the shutter. It was the act of looking, of pressing the release in the first place.

Just act, don’t ask why. The art is not (just) the result. The art is in the act itself.

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