A biography that unlocks the remarkable story of Vivian Maier, the nanny who lived secretly as a world-class photographer, featuring nearly 400 of her images, many never seen before, placed for the first time in the context of her life.
... an engrossing and beautiful biography highlighted by Maier’s exceptional photographs ... To fill in the blanks of Maier’s life, Marks brought into play a panoply of talents: extraordinary sleuthing skills, intuition, resourcefulness and persistence; profound empathy; an astute visual aesthetic and highly developed powers of observation; and last but not least, a logical and lucid prose style ... And so now we have the whole story—or just about the whole story—of Vivian Maier ... Marks believes that although she never sought recognition in her lifetime, Maier would have thoroughly enjoyed the unexpected way her posthumous story has unfolded ... Now there’s another thing she would likely love—the astounding work Marks herself has done in creating this biography. You will surely close this excellent book feeling inspired.
Marks...tells Maier’s life with the intimacy of a scrapbook—and, at various points, the sanctioned intrusiveness of a detective log ... hoarding, Marks convincingly argues, was a sign of mental illness, a likely explanation for the supposed mystery of Maier’s extreme privacy that should be fully aired and destigmatized, rather than shrugged off as mere eccentricity ... Eager to follow this theory throughout the Maier bloodline, Marks sometimes displays the indiscrimination of that relative who has gone giddy on ancestry websites, tracing lineage until it blurs beyond recognition ... But the bulk of Vivian Maier Developed is a thorough, fascinating overview of an artist working for art’s sake, and a forceful case for further exposure rather than discretion in the name of kid-gloved pity. To add my own appendix: Marks’s selection of photographs, artifacts and documents is judicious and satisfying, but the book’s format reduces many to small squares. Bring a magnifying glass.
Ms. Marks, a former senior executive at Dow Jones, got to work, tracking down 30 interview subjects who knew Maier while unearthing scraps of evidence from archives spread across two continents. She has done an excellent job of excavating the photographer’s chaotic backstory, twining the work more tightly with the life ... Ms. Marks’s biography is strongest when she is disentangling her subject’s complex lineage ... Vivian Maier Developed is a gorgeous artifact printed on heavy stock, which allows Ms. Marks to sprinkle her narrative with crisp reproductions of Maier’s photos, as well as key pieces of evidence Marks found during her research (an appendix lays out Ms. Marks’s process, fascinating in its own right). Unfortunately, much of her descriptive text reads like an extended set of captions for the pictures. Still, this book is far and away the most complete picture we have of the photographer to date. While it’s always tricky to align an artist’s output with her inner life, Marks has given us a way of seeing Maier that deepens our understanding of the mystery, and then methodically unravels it.