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Now available in paperback.

Amazon Editor's Pick: Best Art and Photography Books of 2017

New York Times Book Review, January 21, 2018

“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.”
Parul Sehgal | New York Times
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“Pamela Bannos attempts to dislodge the portrayal of Maier as a mysterious, freakish figure.
Our critic Parul Sehgal says she succeeds.”
New York Times Book Review, Editors' Choice

“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.”
Luc Sante | Bookforum
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"Offers a level of detail and thoughtful reflection that no previous book on Maier has. . . . This book is by far the finest yet published on the artist. I believe it will become a classic in the field."
Colin Westerbeck | Art in America
In print only, not available online.

“The highest value of Bannos’s book is that it contains an incredible amount of contextual information,
more than has ever been uncovered or synthesized about Maier before. At last, we have a way of
separating the individual from the myths that have been constructed around her.”
Jillian Steinhauer | The Nation
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“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. In this light, A Photographer’s Life and Afterlife is a
work of real integrity in a field lacking such a genuine spirit of inquiry.”
Emilie Bickerton | Los Angeles Review of Books
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“In her groundbreaking biography. . . Pamela Bannos offers an exhaustively researched and engrossingly written examination of the life and work of the enormously talented and intensely private American photographer. . . Using an approach that is calm and careful, Bannos offers a look at Maier that is complex and humanizing, but never sanctifying or belittling. . . an impressively documented and nuanced page-turner.”
Chicago Tribune
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“Meticulously researched. . . 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.”
Publishers Weekly
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“Assiduously researched and riveting biography. . . Taking measure of the barriers women face, Bannos portrays Maier as nothing less than a consummate, prolific, world-traveling, uncompromising, and fearless artist.”
Booklist Starred Review
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“Bannos's engrossing, meticulously researched biography sensitively reconstructs Vivian Maier's very private life in conjunction with her now massive public legacy as a visionary photographer. . . Bannos's comprehensive narrative ensures that Vivian Maier's story and the treasure trove of her work will live on, transcending the world of photography.”
Shelf Awareness
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“Behind the Fairy Tale. . . Bannos does her level best to make whole what she calls Vivian Maier's fractured Archive.”
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“If you approach [the book] thinking you already know the whole story, you're in for a surprise. 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.”
Chicago Reader
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“Bannos has written a careful, touching, delicate biography that escorts Maier out of the shadows and
into the light without risking overexposure. . . Vivian Maier: A Photographer's Life and Afterlife is a richly detailed
and surprisingly exciting look at the life and times of this woman whose main goal seemed to be
one of completely erasing herself from the picture.”
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“In this thoughtful and carefully researched book on Maier’s life, Pamela Bannos delivers
one of the best photo-related books of 2017.”
Don't Take Pictures
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“But the intrigued and fascinated audience did not ask for expertise, they wanted the moving story, and got it. They
wanted the character, more than her images ..., and they got it: the stereotype of the brilliant babysitter misanthropic, involuntary genius, artist in spite of herself and without her knowledge. But no, says Bannos.
However little we know about her, there is enough to say that Vivian Maier was essentially, and first of all, a photographer.
A cultured, determined, aware, informed, tireless, methodical street photographer.”
il Venerdi di Repubblica (Italy)
Read online version in Fotocrazia in la Repubblica.

“A mythology has been built around the fiercely private Chicago nanny in the years since her photography was posthumously discovered; Pamela Bannos offers a reappraisal of her photographic achievements and intentions and delivers the closest thing to the real story we're likely to get.”
The Globe and Mail (Canada)

“Bannos succeeds in fascinatingly telling the life story of Vivian Maier in such a way that Maier's composition of images corresponds irresistibly to Bannos's text composition. En passant you learn a lot more about the history of photography. ...
With a meticulousness that sometimes seems reminiscent of Maier's obsession with collecting, Bannos gathers
hundreds of pieces of information to present a picture of Maier that is as complete and objective as possible,
and to give the protagonist of her book the power of interpretation over her life.”
Woxx (Luxembourg)

“For Pamela Bannos, photography professor at Northwestern University at Chicago, the story was too one-sided.
The photos were so good, how could the story be so shadowy? Last month her book was published with her version of the story. She tells it as dry as possible, without getting trapped by the tempting Mary Poppins fairy tale and other pitfalls.
No speculation about Maier's sexual preference, no suggestions about alleged mental confusion or trauma.
And not, as in the documentary, numerous interviews with the children with whom Maier had to fit,
who all emphasize how peculiar their nanny was.”
Trouw (Holland)

“Pamela Bannos pierces a number of myths about the 'na├»ve' and 'deranged' nanny photographer Vivian Maier in an excellent documented biography. Her exceptional talent gets even more relief.”
De Morgen (Belgium)

“By carefully analyzing the artist's images, Bannos 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 book's strengths are Bannos's exhaustive research and her ability to connect the greater history of photography in to the account of Maier's curious life. This extraordinary work is recommended for all art history and photography enthusiasts.”
Library Journal

“Sometimes the person behind the lens is every bit as intriguing as the subject in front of it, and such is the case for two very different but equally fascinating 20th-century photographers: Vivian Maier and Richard Avedon, both of whom
are the subjects of new biographies. ... Both biographies offer multifaceted, thoughtful portraits of photographers we thought we knew, and both books try to get at something Avedon himself stated so beautifully and succinctly:
“The best portrait is always the truth.”

“This is an excellent book that reads like a mystery novel tracing Vivian Maier’s life and work as a photographer through the photographs themselves. Bannos uses historical research and interviews as well as Maier’s photographs to string together a story of her whereabouts, interests, and evolution as a photographer. Wonderful and engrossing.”
Elizabeth Currid-Halkett, author of Starstruck: The Business of Celebrity

Vivian Maier: A Photographer's Life and Afterlife strives to correct and complicate what is known about the life and work of Vivian Maier. The intertwined stories of Maier’s unconventional life and the travails of those who have ‘discovered’ her work make for a fascinating read. Bannos clarifies misconceptions that have proliferated around Maier’s story and offers an equally interesting look at the growth of the Maier phenomenon.”
Elizabeth Fraterrigo, author of Playboy and the Making of the Good Life in Modern America

“The Vivian Maier who emerges from the pages of this meticulously researched book is ultimately more mysterious and important a figure than the initial, and mostly inaccurate, accounts of her life and photography portrayed. The interweaving of Maier’s story and photography’s technical and cultural history contextualizes her achievements and shows a reality that is much more compelling than prior characterizations of Maier as a naive ‘nanny-photographer.’ Surprisingly, Bannos’ unsentimental yet powerful examination reveals a woman who was solidly in charge of her own creativity.”
Lynne Warren, editor of the Encyclopedia of Twentieth-Century Photography

“New Bio Lets Master Photographer Vivian Maier Tell Her Own Story”
NPR Los Angeles affiliate KPCC interview

“New Book Focuses on Life, Work of Mysterious Photographer Vivian Maier”
WTTW Chicago Public Television interview

Author Pamela Bannos: “She [Vivian Maier] used her camera like a copy machine”
WGN Chicago radio interview


Pamela Bannos is an artist and researcher who utilizes methods that highlight the forgotten and overlooked, exploring the links between visual representation, urban space, history, and collective memory. She has exhibited her work nationally and internationally, including in solo exhibitions at the Photographers' Gallery in London, England, and the Edwynn Houk Gallery in New York. Her research projects include an investigation of Chicago's Lincoln Park and the grounds of the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. Bannos teaches photography in Northwestern University's Department of Art Theory and Practice.

Contact Pamela Bannos.

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