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 - Pamela Bannos
Availability: Special Order—Subject to Availability
Published: University of Chicago Press - October 10th, 2017