Vivian Maier: A Photographer's Life and Afterlife


Product Details

University of Chicago Press
Publish Date
5.9 X 1.1 X 8.9 inches | 1.38 pounds

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About the Author

Pamela Bannos is professor of photography in Northwestern University's Department of Art Theory and Practice.


"Stories--like snapshots--are shaped by people, and for particular purposes. There's always an angle. A new biography, Vivian Maier: A Photographer's Life and Afterlife, by Pamela Bannos, strives to rescue Maier all over again, this time from the men who promulgated the Maier myth and profited off her work. . . . Almost point by point, Bannos refutes how Maier has been marketed. . . . The achievement of Bannos's intelligent, irritable self-reflexive study is in its restraint. She unseats the ghost and restores to us the woman--but in her own words and images, and without psychologizing. It's a portrait as direct as any of Maier's, and what a distinct pleasure it is to meet her gaze again."

--Parul Sehgal "New York Times"
"Offers a level of detail and thoughtful reflection that no previous book on Maier has. . . . This book is by far the finest yet published on the artist. I believe it will become a classic in the field."--Parul Sehgal "Art in America"
"Bannos offers a clear-eyed investigation of Maier's life, aiming to penetrate the myths surrounding her and to assess her stature as an artist. . . . In alternating chapters, Bannos juxtaposes Maier's biography with her afterlife. She effectively contextualizes Maier's aesthetics within the history of photography, and she makes a persuasive case for her talent and originality. In the end, though, the author is left with unanswered questions about Maier's personal life, her motivations to photograph, and her artistic aims. A sympathetic portrait of an artist who remains elusive."

--Parul Sehgal "Kirkus Reviews"
"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."--Luc Sante "Bookforum"
"At last, we have a way of separating the individual from the myths that have been constructed around her. The revelation of greater context is the beating heart of Bannos's book, and she's clear from the start that she sees it as an act of feminist reclamation."--Luc Sante "Nation"
"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."
--Luc Sante "Publishers Weekly"
"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."
--Luc Sante "Library Journal"
"Her approach is refreshing--a clear-eyed, empirical account that counters the willfully obscure, ego-driven yarns spun by the buyers. In this light, A Photographer's Life and Afterlife is a work of real integrity in a field lacking such a genuine spirit of inquiry. . . . She directs her energies on getting the counternarrative right, and this she manages admirably. . . . In many ways, Maier and the various ways she has been understood, from the 'mystery nanny' to the 'street photographer, ' is a construction and reflection of our time and much less of her own. This is what makes Bannos's biography so welcome. For the most part she lets Maier emerge simply from what she did--her travels, her photos, her actions. Only in her closing remarks does Bannos give us the swiftest brush strokes of a portrait, which is worth remembering for it is one of the most lucid and accurate summations of Maier's work to date."
--Luc Sante "Los Angeles Review of Books"
"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 Currid-Halkett, author of Starstruck: The Business of Celebrity "Los Angeles Review of Books"
"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."
--Elizabeth Fraterrigo, author of Playboy and the Making of the Good Life in Modern America "Los Angeles Review of Books"
"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."
--Lynne Warren, editor of the Encyclopedia of Twentieth-Century Photography "Los Angeles Review of Books"
"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."
--Dmitry Samarov "New City"
"Bannos's engrossing, meticulously researched biography sensitively reconstructs Vivian Maier's very private life in conjunction with her posthumous 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.. . . . A fascinating glimpse into the life of an eccentric, legendary photographer whose work came to prominence only after her death."--Luc Sante "Shelf Awareness for Readers"