Staff Pick

Among the few things known about Vivian Maier: she was a great photographer. She worked as a nanny. She was born in New York, lived in France from age six to twelve, grew up in a splintered family, spent the last fifty years of her life in Chicago, and left tens of thousands  of photos, negatives, slides, and undeveloped rolls of film in storage. Once these surfaced after being auctioned off, their new owners began the myth-making that Pamela Bannos, a professor of photography, both charts and refutes. Her Vivian Maier (Chicago, $35) is a kind of Emily Dickinson of photography; while she roamed the streets relentlessly, she let no one in. Her neighbors thought she was homeless because she spent so much time on a park bench. In lieu of friends to interview, Bannos turned to the photos for clues to Maier’s life. She has studied seemingly every image Maier recorded, and follows in her footsteps from Maier’s first forays with a camera in the early 1950s, in France, through her development as a prodigious street photographer in New York and Chicago, and her travels through Europe, South America, and Asia. Looking at what Maier looked at, Bannos reads these images beautifully, giving insight about Maier’s brilliant sense of composition, her experiments, and her ever-evolving technique. She identifies the cameras Maier used, points out angles, notes lighting and shadows, and traces recurrent themes. She brings the pictures to life so vividly, and is so convincing about what was in Maier’s mind at the moment she framed each shot, that this eloquent photographic interpretation itself becomes a masterful biography of Maier not as an eccentric but as a true artist and an uncommonly independent woman.

Vivian Maier: A Photographer's Life and Afterlife Cover Image
$35.00
ISBN: 9780226470757
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: University of Chicago Press - October 10th, 2017

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Staff Pick

Following his award-winning profiles of Benjamin Franklin, Steve Jobs, and Albert Einstein, Walter Isaacson continues his exploration of creative genius with this in-depth and insightful study of Leonardo da Vinci (Simon & Schuster, $35), the great Italian painter, architect, and engineer.  Isaacson keeps da Vinci in a dual focus, portraying him as both a great artist and a man of science and technology; in vivid tableaux, he shows us the quintessential Renaissance man in the act of dissecting cadavers to learn about human physiology, observing water and wind, and pursuing any and all ways to better understand his world. Isaacson also chronicles how da Vinci, because he was born out of wedlock, was prevented from attending Latin school, which spared him from the need to conform to many of his era’s social exigencies. Using the great treasure of da Vinci’s Notebooks, Isaacson mines the master’s work itself for insight into various periods of his subject’s life, analyzing paintings for both the history they convey and the invaluable glimpses they offer into da Vinci’s artistic techniques. The book is generous with illustrations, illuminating not just Isaacson’s portrait but also serving as an immediate reference to Leonardo’s brilliance.

Leonardo Da Vinci Cover Image
$35.00
ISBN: 9781501139154
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Simon & Schuster - October 17th, 2017

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Staff Pick
Mike Lankford’s Becoming Leonardo might seem like a pure flight of fancy, but it does rest on the foundation of prior research and makes a serious attempt to dig through the layers of mythmaking that surround Leonardo da Vinci. It is indeed not a conventional biography, but Lankford’s wry humor, his sharp conclusions, and his pure brilliance when it comes to getting inside people’s minds will convince you that perhaps Leonardo himself would have enjoyed this one.
Becoming Leonardo: An Exploded View of the Life of Leonardo Da Vinci Cover Image
$28.99
ISBN: 9781612195957
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Melville House Publishing - March 28th, 2017

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