...an exhaustively researched and engrossingly written examination of the life and work of the enormously talented and intensely private American photographer ... Throughout the book, Bannos gives a thorough account of how 'mansplaining Vivian Maier contributed to her mythologizing.' In turn, she provides a much-needed alternative to these largely reductive and romanticized myths ... As her subtitle suggests, Bannos deftly weaves Maier's chronological biography with the afterlife of the work she left behind. This multilayered structure results in a fascinating and balanced look at questions of artistic authority, appropriation, legacy and copyright ... By the end of this impressively documented and nuanced page-turner, Maier will no longer be a mystery woman to the reader either. Instead, a much richer and more valuable portrait emerges: that of a gifted and methodical artist and a multifarious human being.
...[an] assiduously researched and riveting biography ... Bannos tacks between fully chronicling Maier’s fiercely independent and creatively intrepid life and thoroughly investigating the sale of her photographs and the questions raised about who has the right to profit from them ... aking measure of the barriers women face, Bannos portrays Maier as nothing less than a consummate, prolific, world-traveling, uncompromising, and fearless artist.
...almost point by point, Bannos refutes how Maier has been marketed. And she looks at how it has benefited Maloof et al. to present Maier as a strange, incapable wraith, how it made them look all the more heroic, and allowed them to cavalierly overlook her absolute unwillingness to show her work publicly ... 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.
Vivian Maier: A Photographer’s Life and Afterlife is intended as 'a counterpoint, a counternarrative, and a corrective' to the narrative spun primarily by the buyers of Maier’s boxes at the auctions of August 2007, and in particular, former real estate agent John Maloof, who has done more than anyone else to make Maier visible ... Maloof is, undoubtedly, the archvillain...Bannos simply follows the photographs, tracing where Maier went and looking at what subjects drew her eye. Her approach is refreshing — a clear-eyed, empirical account that counters the willfully obscure, ego-driven yarns spun by the buyers ...biography proceeds by dual narratives, shifting between recounting and retracing Maier’s life, and the story of how her oeuvre was subsequently 'discovered' following the auctions... A deftness of touch in knitting together biographical material with the historical situation is lacking.
In alternating sections, Bannos has interwoven a rigorous biography with a discussion of the photographs Maier was always taking, the tale of how her work (and life) came to be acquired and marketed by others, and the history of photography, including the enormous impact of photojournalism in the mid-20th century. All this context is illuminating. Along the way, Bannos corrects errors that were introduced in the construction of the Vivian Maier myth—some by Maier herself, but others by those who shaped her story after her death ... A couple of quibbles: In a perfect world, this book, which includes a rather skimpy selection of photos, would contain more of the Maier images Bannos discusses. (As it is, no doubt because of access and copyright issues, what it has is extensive footnotes directing the reader to various Maier archives.) And it would have been able to shed more light on the most vexing part of the Vivian Maier story—the part where collectors bought her extraordinary work at an auction a year and a half before she died (mostly alone and impoverished), but only found her after her obituary was published.
[Maier] has attained that rarefied position by virtue of her talent, to be sure, but also because of the romance of serendipity as well as the singular opportunities afforded by the internet to certain kinds of beaverish promoters. Thus her story, as 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—moves along two timelines at once, before and after death, both of them labyrinthine and marked by passages of seemingly permanent obscurity.
...Pamela Bannos, has trawled through the archives to find new facts and clear up misunderstandings. Most importantly, she examined as much of Maier’s work as she could get her hands on in order to trace her movements, sometimes minute by minute... It’s amazing how a researcher as assiduous as Bannos has been unable to find a single person who ever had a serious conversation with Maier about her art, nor to find any written reflections...subtly implies, there are really two stories here, and the tangled story of the afterlife — that is, of what happened after her storage spaces were seized and sold off and her work was shepherded into the public sphere that she had always avoided — takes up half the book ... The most important lesson of Vivian Maier: A Photographer’s Life and Afterlife is that Maier’s pictures still hold much more to be seen.
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.
...a meticulously researched counternarrative to the public depiction of photographer Vivian Maier ... 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.