Vivian Maier: A Photographer's Life and Afterlife (2017), by Pamela Bannos

A far more detailed account than the movie Finding Vivian Maier, Pamela Bannos’s book debunks some of the popular myths that have grown around this posthumous celebrity. Foremost among these is the idea that Maier was a nanny who took pictures - Bannos sees her as a photographer who conveniently supported herself as a nanny. Maier’s secretive, elusive mystique - while undoubtedly partially fueling her “success” (original prints selling for up to $10,000) - is replaced by extensive details of her life, including her early years in New York and France, and then her productive photography years, primarily in New York and Chicago, with forays to Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Vancouver, and a trip around the world. For classic camera geeks there is information about her Leicas and Rolliflexes, as well as perspectives on her place in the history of street photography. Bannos addresses the still murky arena of Maier’s copyright protection, and, without really taking sides, whether it is ethical or even legal for others to be making money off of her art. The author, a professor of photography at Northwestern University, does not pull punches on her opinion of John Maloof’s Finding movie (nominated for an Academy Award), which she finds full of omissions and distortions. Vivian Maier: A Photographer’s Life and Afterlife is a compelling tale of a unique photographic talent and is highly recommended. Five out of five f-stops.   

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