Vivian Maier has been called one of the greatest street photographers of the 20th century, but during her lifetime, she worked as a nanny and kept her photography on rolls of film that went undeveloped. Over at The Millions, Janet Potter raises questions about Maier’s decision to keep her artwork to herself: “Why is someone who takes so many photos a nanny? Why didn’t she ever develop her film?” The underlying issue at stake is whether there is value in art that goes unseen, and if it is enough to live an artistic life when one’s art goes unnoticed.
As Potter writes, “There is evidence that [Maier] knew she was a good photographer, was proud of her talent, but none that she attempted to share it or have it critiqued.” Like Maier, there are other artists who do not seek a wider audience for their work.
For very different reasons for each of these artists, the practice of their craft looms larger than recognition of it.