I was watching a special on Showtime called Finding Vivian Maier. It is up for an Oscar this year for Best Documentary, and my guess is not many would know the name of this mysterious and wildly strange woman photographer profiled in the documentary.
You would likely have to be in the photography world to have heard of this passionate American street photographer, or else, have seen the documentary on TV.
I will spare you her interesting history, but she was one of the most prolific photographers of her era, with upwards of 100,000 photographs she took with her Rolleiflex camera – negatives, images and video stored away in trunks and boxes only discovered decades later. She had died virtually unknown in 2009, only three years before John Maloof purchased her negatives at auction. The documentary is as much about him as he reconstructed her secretive life and printed her as yet discovered work for exhibition.
Watching her story, I realized how easy it is to be a good or even great photographer and not have it available to the pubic. She was very poor at the end of her life and did not use a computer to catalog and promote her work for others to see.
In a way, that actually is a good thing because the internet is saturated with photographers and likely she would have blended in with the masses had she decided to create a website. By keeping her work private and the work discovered posthumously, she became a photographic sensation as much for the captivating work as for her secretive life.
So of course, this gets anyone taking 100,000 photos like myself asking, “What will happen to my photographs?” I don’t actively promote them for sale, but have sold some. In fact, most of the images in this post I have lost the originals.
When I am gone, the photos will be lost and forgotten. I have no plans in place for otherwise. I always thought the internet images will persist, but read recently that certain social media accounts get shut down after one’s death. Also in the fine print of user agreements, no other individual can take over that account in some cases. If passwords are passed on to survivors, then possibly an account can continue, but the user agreement may forbid that as well. Inactive accounts get removed too. WP accounts will revert to free accounts and have this message when searched. This was my blog that I abandoned but did not delete.
So the question comes back to you. Do you care what happens to your photographs after you are gone? Would you like to become famous like Vivian? She knew she was talented and competent in her work, but still did not have the desire to get the images in galleries or publish them, but now they are. Her work was vastly expressive, her eye keen for composition, subject matter, atmosphere and design always present in her work. Check her out. Likely street photography is not your cup of tea, but she really was a good photographer.