Finding Vivian Maier

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gif via Fast Company

The 19th-century French novelist Gustave Flaubert once said to be “be regular and orderly in your life like a Bourgeois so that you may be violent and original in your work.”

Vivian Maier took this to heart. No one ever knew this nanny was an artist of her own.

She took over 100,000 photos, mostly street photographs of downtown Chicago, and kept them for her own viewing, including her selfies. Taking pictures was her happy place, a creative outlet, that allowed her to see the world with a third eye. She wrote with light.

Today, Maier would’ve been an Instagram and VSCO sensation. While she may have resisted social media given her inclination as a loner, she probably would’ve enjoyed connecting with others who shared the same passion. The internet unleashes the weirdness in all of us, motivating us to share our work.

Van Gogh only sold one piece of artwork in his life, to his brother. His posthumous reputation speaks for itself, as does Maier’s.

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The ‘Perfect Human’

“Look at the eye.”

Leon Jacobs writes on the Crew Blog about the benefits of setting creative constraints. He uses the 1960s film The Perfect Human to illustrate what happens when the director Jorgen Leth takes on full creative control. The upshot is a boring movie about humans.

Years later one of Leth’s students, Lars von Trier, challenges him to remake the film with a set of assigned “obstructions” or challenges. Von Trier sends him to Cuba to remake the movie in 12 half-second frames. Although Leth is initially scared, he ends up creating a much more compelling film the original.

The higher the obstruction, the more single-minded the problem, the more the creative mind is challenged.

Creativity is boundless. The next time someone gives you a project, asks for some constrictions.

Ironically, the focus is what frees us.

The paradox of creativity is that setting limitations focuses you on getting started and helps you end up with a superior product.