Vivian Maier: A Photographer’s Life and Afterlife

University of Chicago Press
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Who was Vivian Maier? Many people know her as the reclusive Chicago nanny who wandered the city for decades, constantly snapping photographs, which were unseen until they were discovered in a seemingly abandoned storage locker. They revealed her to be an inadvertent master of twentieth-century American street photography. Not long after, the news broke that Maier had recently died and had no surviving relatives. Soon the whole world knew about her preternatural work, shooting her to stardom almost overnight.

But, as Pamela Bannos reveals in this meticulous and passionate biography, this story of the nanny savant has blinded us to Maier’s true achievements, as well as her intentions. Most important, Bannos argues, Maier was not a nanny who moonlighted as a photographer; she was a photographer who supported herself as a nanny. In Vivian Maier: A Photographer’s Life and Afterlife, Bannos contrasts Maier’s life with the mythology that strangers—mostly the men who have profited from her work—have created around her absence. Bannos shows that Maier was extremely conscientious about how her work was developed, printed, and cropped, even though she also made a clear choice never to display it. She places Maier’s fierce passion for privacy alongside the recent spread of her work around the world, and she explains Maier’s careful adjustments of photographic technique, while explaining how the photographs have been misconstrued or misidentified. As well, Bannos uncovers new information about Maier’s immediate family, including her difficult brother, Karl—relatives that once had been thought not to exist.

This authoritative and engrossing biography shows that the real story of Vivian Maier, a true visionary artist, is even more compelling than the myth.
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About the author

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

Publisher
University of Chicago Press
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Published on
Oct 5, 2017
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Pages
352
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ISBN
9780226470894
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / Artists, Architects, Photographers
Biography & Autobiography / General
Photography / History
Photography / Individual Photographers / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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The comprehensive biography of the iconic twentieth-century American photographer Berenice Abbott, a trailblazing documentary modernist, author, and inventor.

Berenice Abbott is to American photography as Georgia O’Keeffe is to painting or Willa Cather to letters. She was a photographer of astounding innovation and artistry, a pioneer in both her personal and professional life. Abbott’s sixty-year career established her not only as a master of American photography, but also as a teacher, writer, archivist, and inventor. Famously reticent in public, Abbott’s fascinating life has long remained a mystery—until now.

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With more than ninety stunning photos, this sweeping, cinematic biography secures Berenice Abbott’s place in the histories of photography and modern art, while framing her incredible accomplishments as a female artist and entrepreneur.

The definitive biography of the beguiling Diane Arbus, one of the most influential and important photographers of the twentieth century, a brilliant and absorbing exposition that links the extraordinary arc of her life to her iconic photographs.

Diane Arbus brings to life the full story of one of the greatest American artists of the twentieth century, a visionary who revolutionized photography and altered the course of contemporary art with her striking, now iconic images. Arbus comes startlingly to life on these pages, a strong-minded child of unnerving originality who grew into a formidable artist and forged an intimacy with her subjects that has inspired generations of artists. Arresting, unsettling, and poignant, her photographs stick in our minds. Why did these people fascinate her? And what was it about her that captivated them?

It is impossible to understand the transfixing power of Arbus’s photographs without understanding her life story. Arthur Lubow draws on exclusive interviews with Arbus’s friends, lovers, and colleagues, on previously unknown letters, and on his own profound critical understanding of photography, to explore Arbus’s unique perspective. He deftly traces Arbus’s development from a wealthy, sexually precocious free spirit into first a successful New York fashion photographer, and then a singular artist who coaxed hidden truths from her subjects. Lubow reveals that Arbus’s profound need not only to see her subjects but to be seen by them drove her to forge unusually close bonds with these people, helping her discover the fantasies, pain, and heroism within each of them.

Diane Arbus is the definitive biography of this unique, hugely influential artist. This magnificently absorbing, sensitive treatment of a singular personality brushes aside the clichés that have long surrounded Arbus and her work to capture a brilliant portrait of this seminal artist whose work has immeasurably shaped art and modern culture.

Lubow’s Diane Arbus finally does justice to Arbus, and brings to life the story and art of one of the greatest American artists in history.

Diane Arbus includes a 16-page black-and-white photo insert.

Every two minutes, Americans alone take more photographs than were printed in the entire nineteenth century; every minute, people from around the world upload over 300 hours of video to YouTube; and in 2014, we took over one trillion photographs. From the funny memes that we send to our friends to the disturbing photographs we see in the news, we are consuming and producing images in quantities and ways that could never have been anticipated. In the process, we are producing a new worldview powered by changing demographics—one where the majority of people are young, urban, and globally connected.

In How to See the World, visual culture expert Nicholas Mirzoeff offers a sweeping look at history's most famous images—from Velázquez's Las Meninas to the iconic “Blue Marble”—to contextualize and make sense of today's visual world. Drawing on art history, sociology, semiotics, and everyday experience, he teaches us how to close read everything from astronaut selfies to Impressionist self-portraits, from Hitchcock films to videos taken by drones. Mirzoeff takes us on a journey through visual revolutions in the arts and sciences, from new mapping techniques in the seventeenth century to new painting styles in the eighteenth and the creation of film, photography, and x-rays in the nineteenth century. In today's networked world, mobile technology and social media enable us to exercise “visual activism”—the practice of producing and circulating images to drive political and social change. Whether we are looking at pictures showing the effects of climate change on natural and urban landscapes or an fMRI scan demonstrating neurological addiction, Mirzoeff helps us to find meaning in what we see.

A powerful and accessible introduction to this new visual culture, How to See the World reveals how images shape our lives, how we can harness their power for good, and why they matter to us all.
Jacob Riis was one of the very few men who photographed the slums of New York at the turn of the century, when as many as 300,000 people per square mile were crowded into the tenements of New York's Lower East Side. The filth and degradation made the area a hell for the immigrants forced to live there. Riis was one of those immigrants, and, after years of abject poverty, when he became a police reporter for the New York Tribune, he exposed the shameful conditions of life with which he was all too familiar. Today, he is best remembered as a compassionate and effective reformer and as a pioneer photo-journalist.
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