Inspired by Vivian Maier, Lessons on Street Photography.

1. Shoot for yourself.

Imagine what it would be like to spend your whole life taking photographs, hundreds of thousands of photographs and barely anyone sees them or notices them?

I’ve been exploring different street photography groups on facebook, all of them have thousands of photographers submitting their images everyday, some get hundreds of likes and comments, others only get a few.

It’s very easy to fall into the thinking that your photographs are only worth the number of likes they gain.

That’s what I love about Maier, she took so many images and rarely shared them with anyone, of course her work has now been discovered and gained popularity.

Many thousands of her negatives were bought in a auction, with hundreds more undeveloped rolls.


It was by chance that her work was discovered and the buyer invested his time into sharing her work online with the world.

When Maier was photographing, she did it for herself and her own enjoyment, she wasn’t shooting to please her contemporaries.

How we view photographs has changed, social media is very important for sharing our work and finding fellow photographers, share ideas and become inspired by others work around the world. I think it’s just important to remember that our photographs should first and foremost be for our own enjoyment.

2. Keep Taking Photos

How many pictures do you take in a week? It all depends on our schedules but it goes without saying, the more photos you take the better you will become. You may have heard of the 10,000 hour theory. That it takes that many hours to become a professional at whatever you’re choice subject is. I think that can apply to street photography too. With experience comes ability. Ability to seek out a good image.

Vivian shot prolifically. Hundreds of thousands of negatives and she even left behind undeveloped rolls of film.

If photography is your voice, if writing isn’t your thing. The images you leave behind are your legacy, it’s what you were trying to say about the world.


I believe Vivian did an amazing job of creating a legacy. She maybe never thought that her work would be discovered but that didn’t really matter to her. She just kept shooting, she needed that in her life.

3. Embrace your day job.

For the past 3 years I’ve owned and managed a coffee shop in Belfast. All of my time is poured into building the shop up. I had little to no time for street photography.

Until I realised that I could fit time in to write about street photography and create a community around the cafe for other street photographers to meet and share stories and experiences.

Our busy lives can be a barrier to carving out space for the passions we have or the hobbies we want to begin.

My belief is that you can find a way of telling your story through the time that you do have to photograph.

Maybe you could get up a little earlier walk to work one day a week, photographing your journey?

You could start to build a community of other street photographers in your area and organise meet-ups or photo-walks.

I love that Maier, found time whilst nannying to photograph the people she met whilst running errand with the children she cared for and on her days off.

I love that she turned her bathroom into a darkroom and dedicated her free time to develop.

If you have a passion for street photography you can find a way to fit time into the schedule for a short photo walk, starting a blog or simply organising your photos to compile a photo book.

4. Self-Portraits

The concept behind Mirror shot was to feature photographers from around the world, intervening them about their process and including the classic mirror-shot selfie as a profile picture.

Vivian Maier was prolific at taking mirror shots.


There’s something special about introducing yourself into your work in a literal way.

What makes your photography stand out against anyone else’s?

Including the self-portrait in your work or even alluding to your presence in a photo through reflection or shadow can add your own personal stamp.


5. Work Hard

You don’t get anywhere by not trying. It’s hard work to be dedicated to your craft. It’s hard work to have a vision and go after that.

I find the goal of street photography can be so vague and misguided at times.

What am I trying to accomplish in my work?

Am just trying to take humorous photos? Or am I trying to say something? Am I trying to tell a story?

It’s difficult to work hard if you don’t know what your goal is and what your mission statement is.

That goal can change, you can set a goal of shooting your first series of images for an exhibition or for a photo essay or book.

You can have a goal of telling the story of your city or town.

There are so many variations but ultimately I think it’s important to define what matters to you right now, what are you going to chase and work hard to complete.


It’s hard to know exactly what drove Maier to work so prolifically. Perhaps she had a goal in mind, perhaps she just wanted to leave a legacy. Whatever that drive was, it worked, she clearly enjoyed her work and continued to shoot, she was dedicated to her craft.

For that, she is an inspiration to everyone out there working silently and passionately.


If collecting photography books is your thing, I highly reccomend this book featuring a stunning collection of her work.

Vivian Maier : Street Photographer

Buy Book on Amazon

(All images in this post sourced from the Maloof Collection)

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