BOOK STEW REVIEW: ‘Vivian Maier Developed: The Untold Story Of The Photographer Nanny’ by Ann Marks

Below is the latest Book Stew Review from Eileen MacDougall, host of the long-running Book Stew, a video and podcast devoted to writing in all forms, authors, playwrights, and even a cat who survived a tornado and wrote a book about it.

Vivian Maier Developed: The Untold Story Of The Photographer Nanny by Ann Marks

And now the story is told! The renowned street photographer, discovered when here 143,000 images (some prints, but mostly undeveloped film) came up for auction when she did not pay a $2,400 storage bill, has been a mystery since her death in 2009.

The author researched Maier for years, going back to her birth in France and forward to the families who employed her in NYC and in Chicago, and portrays a headstrong, independent woman who was attached to very few people but completely devoted to her craft.

Her first remarkable discovery was that 10 of Vivian’s family members were buried in nine different cemeteries in the New York area, indicating high levels of estrangement on both sides. Maier’s childhood in the bucolic Hautes-Alps region of Southeast France was fairly normal for that time (1926) and that locale, but her neglectful parents and the mental illness than ran strongly in both sides caused her to avoid entanglements, seeking paying work as a nanny, and to depend on the kindness of strangers.

Most of her employers found her to be overly strict, cold and distant, but she was drawn to children as full humans and was able to care for and photograph them most unsentimentally.

The disruptions of her early years in New York, where she was transplanted at age 19, formed her barriers and also turned Vivian into a hoarder.

The author’s thoroughness and her determination to create a complete portrait and to solve the mysteries make this a thrilling read for anyone with even a passing interest in Maier and her work.

Included in the saga of the discovery of her talent and an examination of the controversies that surrounded Maier’s launch in the world.

QUOTE: “If there is a tragedy, it is that her interpersonal issues prevented others from discovering her real genius and her from sharing it.”

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