It’s Women’s History Month, and it’s the perfect time to remember a legend.
Of course, the title of the article will raise a few eyebrows. I mean, is there really “a greatest” female street photographer? In my opinion, there is. And while 2021 makes it constantly harder to separate the genders, can’t we have a little bit of fun? So, yes, we’re focusing on women. It’s their month, and if you’re not cool with that, ahh, what can we do? So let’s look back on the most outstanding female photographer ever to shoot the candid frame: Vivian Maier.
Why Is Vivian Maier the Great Female Street Photographer
I forgive some of you who may think I’m confused. Maybe you think I’m confusing Maier’s story with her work. Because after all, the story of how she was discovered is pretty epic. But I’m not confused. And, as good as her story is, we’re not going to focus on that.
Maier is everything I wish I could be as a street photographer. She never cared about success. Nor was she interested in getting validation. For her, street photography was her escape from day to day life. I also believe it was more than that.
Spend time with her work. You will see; whether you’re black, white, rich, poor, woman, man, we’re all the same.
In my opinion, street photography was her way of connecting to people. Described as somewhat of a loner, it seems she struggled to make meaningful human connections. But when roaming the streets, her Rolleiflex resting against her stomach, and that’s when she was able to connect to her fellow human. To me, that’s truly beautiful, and that connection is what street photography is all about.
Of course, I know that’s not enough to give her the title of the greatest female street photographer.
I’m not one to be overly impressed by coincidences or fancy street art, for example. Sure, when photographers do them to a high standard, they can make for compelling images. But for the most part, they’re cliche and lack a little bit of class.
Maier’s work, however, is full of class. It’s full of attitude. Most importantly, it’s full of meaning. Despite being an introvert, I feel her photographs convey that she clearly understood people. She grasps what made people connect to a scene, to an emotion, to a moment in time.
I’m glad she passed with her interpretation of what street photography is intact: a process of personal discovery and a deeper connection to others.
Sitting with her images, they help me understand what it means to be human. Her images help me forget the complications we instill in ourselves. And they put to the back of my mind the division we constantly create throughout the world.
Spend time with her work. You will see; we’re all the same, whether you’re black, white, rich, poor, woman, man. We all cry, laugh, hope, dream, worry, and scream. Despite being a loner, an outsider if you will, Maier’s work serves as a reminder that we’re all connected. Forget about the technical elements of a photo. The work that makes you feel is the purest and most enjoyable form of street photography.
Many feel it’s sad Maier never knew how popular she would become. I don’t. I’m glad she passed with her interpretation of what street photography is intact: a process of personal discovery and a deeper connection to others.
If Maier were alive today, she wouldn’t have Instagram. She wouldn’t have a website. And she certainly wouldn’t have a digital camera. Instead, she would be walking the streets of Chicago, passing her time, making her photographs. Even in an era of hyper narcissism, nobody would know who Vivian Maier was: the greatest female street photographer to ever live.
Lead image is a screenshot taken from the video.