Vivian Maier: A Photographer's Life and Afterlife

Univ. of Chicago. Oct. 2017. 352p. photos. notes. index. ISBN 9780226470757. $35. PHOTOG
Vivian Maier (1926–2009) was a prolific, skillful photographer who took thousands of photographs during her lifetime. Her work was not discovered until after her death, when the contents of her storage units—including hundreds of thousands of negatives—were sold at auction. Since then, her images have been widely disseminated through social media, exhibitions, books, even a full-length, award-winning documentary film, Finding Vivian Maier (2013). Because Maier chose not to show her photographs during her lifetime and left no heirs, her story and estate have been tangled in mystery and controversy. Presently, several men have claim to her images and have profited by not only selling her photos but also perpetuating the Maier "myth." By carefully analyzing the artist's images, Bannos (photography, Northwestern Univ.) 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 number of photographs here is limited to 30, but the book's strengths are Bannos's exhaustive research and her ability to connect the greater history of photography into the account of Maier's curious life.
VERDICT This extraordinary work is recommended for all art history and photography enthusiasts.

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