Join us May 16: background on Benefit speaker Pamela Bannos' book

Institute President Erika Schmidt sat down with our benefit featured speaker Pamela Bannos to discuss her new book Vivian Maier: A Photographer's Life and Afterlife. Here she offers reflections on Bannos' book. 

When Vivian Maier's cache of negatives, photographs and movies was serendipitously discovered at an auction of abandoned storage lockers, a myth quickly surrounded her. A nanny who snapped photos while she cared for her charges, a recluse who never ever publicly showed her work, an odd, secretive woman with a picture-taking hobby; this was the mythography that obscured the artistic talent as well as the humanity and human sympathy so evident in the photographs.

Pamela Bannos brought her own photographer's eye to a retelling of Maier's story in her recently published biography, Vivian Maier: A Photographer's Life and Afterlife. By researching her life, examining her photographs and traveling to the sites that Maier photographed, Bannos can tell a different story than the now-familiar myth.

She discovers a woman who considered herself a serious photographer, not a nanny with a camera. While she may have been secretive, Maier presents herself often in her photos, mostly looking straight ahead with her camera around her neck. Maier's portraits of herself are of the photographer, and Bannos' biography helps us see her differently.

Though Bannos is careful to say that she does not "psychologize" Maier, she does something deeply psychoanalytic. Just as psychoanalysts help people retell their own stories, uncovering the subjective self that can be buried in personal myths, Bannos, using the evidence of the photographs, allows us to see Maier through her own eyes rather than through the myths that have surrounded her since her remarkable work was found.

The discovery of Maier's trove of photographs, many of Chicago streets, people and lakefront, generated a mythology about her life and work. Bannos re-examines and re-narrates the story of her career, placing Maier and her photographic legacy at its center.

The Institute's annual benefit is Wednesday, May 16. Please join us for an inspiring evening to celebrate the Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis and our impact on our community. Learn more and order tickets here