Cloth $35.00 ISBN: 9780226470757 Published October 2017
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Vivian Maier

A Photographer’s Life and Afterlife

Pamela Bannos

Vivian Maier

Pamela Bannos

352 pages | 30 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2017
Cloth $35.00 ISBN: 9780226470757 Published October 2017
E-book $21.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226470894 Published October 2017
Who was Vivian Maier? Many people know her as the reclusive Chicago nanny who wandered the city for decades, constantly snapping photographs, which were unseen until they were discovered in a seemingly abandoned storage locker. They revealed her to be an inadvertent master of twentieth-century American street photography. Not long after, the news broke that Maier had recently died and had no surviving relatives. Soon the whole world knew about her preternatural work, shooting her to stardom almost overnight.
But, as Pamela Bannos reveals in this meticulous and passionate biography, this story of the nanny savant has blinded us to Maier’s true achievements, as well as her intentions. Most important, Bannos argues, Maier was not a nanny who moonlighted as a photographer; she was a photographer who supported herself as a nanny. In Vivian Maier: A Photographer’s Life and Afterlife, Bannos contrasts Maier’s life with the mythology that strangers—mostly the men who have profited from her work—have created around her absence. Bannos shows that Maier was extremely conscientious about how her work was developed, printed, and cropped, even though she also made a clear choice never to display it. She places Maier’s fierce passion for privacy alongside the recent spread of her work around the world, and she explains Maier’s careful adjustments of photographic technique, while explaining how the photographs have been misconstrued or misidentified. As well, Bannos uncovers new information about Maier’s immediate family, including her difficult brother, Karl—relatives that once had been thought not to exist.
This authoritative and engrossing biography shows that the real story of Vivian Maier, a true visionary artist, is even more compelling than the myth.


Part I: Beginnings and Endings
Chapter 1: A Fractured Archive
Chapter 2: A New World, a New Art Form
Chapter 3: A Family Divided / Photography’s Complex History

Part II: The Emergence of Vivian Maier
Chapter 4: Young Photographer / Final Days
Chapter 5: New York Street Photographer / Viral Vivian

Part III: The Reinvention of Vivian Maier
Chapter 6: Mysterious Nanny Photographer
Chapter 7: High Art / Downward Spiral

Part IV: The Aftermath
Chapter 8: The Missing Picture: Vivian’s Maier’s Last Thirty Years
Chapter 9: Those Who Did Not Know Her
Chapter 10: Who Owns Vivian Maier’s Photography?

Author’s Note and Acknowledgments
Abbreviations of Sources Used in Notes

Review Quotes
Luc Sante | Bookforum
"Patiently and lucidly detailed by Pamela Bannos in her nearly forensic biography--which unties many knots and brings order to what was previously a chaotic welter of information and misinformation."
Publishers Weekly
"Meticulously researched. . . . Bannos's biography is a vital contribution to understanding the historical relevance of Maier's work and an important challenge to the way in which Maier's work and legacy have been represented thus far."
Library Journal
"By carefully analyzing the artist's images, Bannos skillfully tracks her entire adult life: work history, where she lived and traveled, and her interests, and is able to look past the mystique of the 'eccentric nanny with a camera' to tell the true Maier story. . . . The book's strengths are Bannos's exhaustive research and her ability to connect the greater history of photography in to the account of Maier's curious life. This extraordinary work is recommended for all art history and photography enthusiasts."
Shelf Awareness
"Bannos's engrossing, meticulously researched biography sensitively reconstructs Vivian Maier's very private life in conjunction with her now massive public legacy as a visionary photographer. Many questions remain and always will. However, Bannos's comprehensive narrative ensures that Vivian Maier's story and the treasure trove of her work will live on, transcending the world of photography. . . . A fascinating glimpse into the life of an eccentric, legendary photographer whose work came to prominence only with her death."
Elizabeth Currid-Halkett, author of Starstruck: The Business of Celebrity
“This is an excellent book that reads like a mystery novel tracing Vivian Maier’s life and work as a photographer through the photographs themselves. Bannos uses historical research and interviews as well as Maier’s photographs to string together a story of her whereabouts, interests, and evolution as a photographer. Wonderful and engrossing.”
Elizabeth Fraterrigo, author of Playboy and the Making of the Good Life in Modern America
“Vivian Maier: A Photographer’s Life and Afterlife strives to correct and complicate what is known about the life and work of Vivian Maier. The intertwined stories of Maier’s unconventional life and the travails of those who have ‘discovered’ her work make for a fascinating read. Bannos clarifies misconceptions that have proliferated around Maier’s story and offers an equally interesting look at the growth of the Maier phenomenon.”
Lynne Warren, editor of the Encyclopedia of Twentieth-Century Photography
“The Vivian Maier who emerges from the pages of this meticulously researched book is ultimately more mysterious and important a figure than the initial, and mostly inaccurate, accounts of her life and photography portrayed. The interweaving of Maier’s story and photography’s technical and cultural history contextualizes her achievements and shows a reality that is much more compelling than prior characterizations of Maier as a naïve ‘nanny-photographer.’ Surprisingly, Bannos’ unsentimental yet powerful examination reveals a woman who was solidly in charge of her own creativity.”
Dmitry Samarov | New City
"Authoritative. . . . Fascinating, thorough. . . . Up to now, Maier's story has been told mostly by Maloof and two other collectors who owned much of the prints, negatives, undeveloped film and personal effects she left behind without a will or instructions as to their disposal. Unlike those collectors, Bannos has no significant financial stake in the Maier myth. Also unlike them, she is a photographer herself and a woman, and thus more naturally able to put herself in Maier's shoes."
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