Vivian Maier worked as a nanny in Chicago for 40 years. She died in 2009 at age 83 and may have faded from memory but for her other, uncelebrated work as an amateur street photographer. After her death, Maier’s collection of 150,000 photographs, some of which were on display at the WSU Museum of Art from January to April, was auctioned off and released to the world. By children’s reports a fine nanny, her legacy for most will be the images that caught the panoply of people and scenes in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, and other cities she visited with her Rolleiflex camera.
Those pictures of children, men, and women at bus stops and shops, in buses and on sidewalks show warmth, energy, and ennui of urban life, most taken while Maier ferried her charges through the city. She didn’t even develop many of her negatives. She never received a dime for her photographs.
As Maier’s story shows, work is not always about making money, although it’s necessary to pay the rent and put food on the table. We each define the right work to fulfill our lives, “Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,” as Walt Whitman said about the work of carpenters and homemakers. It can mean documenting one’s surroundings as Maier did, or pushing for a dream job, helping others who need it, or maybe even improving the world.
Sometimes putting a different kind of food on the table can make a better world. In this issue, Eric Sorensen visits the Bread Lab at WSU’s Mount Vernon Research Center, where wheat breeder Stephen Jones, his students, and a resident baker are redefining a staple. Sorensen finds a revolution underway, one in which local grains and rediscovered baking techniques can make a better loaf.
To the south, the work of WSU Vancouver professor Susan Finley and others can and will make the difference in the lives of homeless and impoverished children when they are out of school for the summer. Finley’s own experiences drive the At Home At School program, an innovative effort to make sure those kids have high-quality summer experiences and, at the same time, inform teachers about the special needs those children might carry into the classroom.
Some people have to jump some hurdles to succeed in the work they want. For women like Cindy Brunson and Jaymee Sire, who broke into the traditionally male-dominated field of sports broadcasting, the extra effort pays off. They and other alumni capitalize on their broadcasting training at the Murrow College of Communication to knock it out of the park.
Our work at times carries us in a new direction, as it has for our content editor and longtime writer Hannelore Sudermann, who wrote for this magazine for over 10 years. We will miss her writing acumen, editorial eye, and her ability to find and tell great stories. Like Maier, like many of us, she has left a mark and continues to follow her muse.