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150,000 photographs. None developed.

By: Michael Blankenship |

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive” 

~ Howard Thurman

In 2007, Chicago real estate agent John Maloof made a surprising discovery. He had purchased a storage locker that was up for auction due to unpaid bills. Inside, he found 150,000 stunning photographs — decades worth of artistic passion from an unknown photographer.

Maloof did a bit of research and discovered these to be the work of a woman named Vivian Maier (February 1, 1926 – April 21, 2009).

(Her work is amazing)

But Vivian wasn’t a famed photographer or an artist in the limelight. She was a nanny for 40 years. She took these photos during her strolls with the children she cared for or in her free time. 

It begs the question — had Vivian been more forthright with sharing her art with the world (art that has now become extremely iconic), perhaps she could’ve had her own art shows, sold these photos, and lived a different life. 

But perhaps Vivian didn’t care about all that. 

Maybe she loved taking photos just for the sake of it… not for likes, money, or fame. Her photos weren’t dictated by market trends or what might fetch her the highest bid. They were raw, real, and untainted by commercial motives.

In today’s world, how often do we engage in hobbies purely for the love of it, rather than for likes on Instagram or for potential profit? Our world seems to revolve around metrics, be it followers on Instagram, views on YouTube, or appreciations on LinkedIn.

We’ve become so goal-oriented that we sometimes overlook the simple joys. The voice in our head constantly evaluates the potential returns on our actions, making us question whether a pursuit is worth our time (even if it’s something we love to do). 

But Vivian’s story is a reminder: there’s immeasurable value in doing something purely for the joy it brings, without seeking external validation. This genuine passion can offer deep satisfaction and reduce the stress of constantly meeting external standards.

So here’s a question… 

If money and fame were off the table, what would you love to spend your time doing?

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