Pamela Bannos: Vivian Maier's Fractured Archive

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 has taught photography at Northwestern University's Department of Art Theory and Practice since 1993.

Spolia Magazine, July 2014, An Interview with Pamela Bannos.

After appearing on Chicago public television's 2012 programs Searching for Vivian Maier and
The Meteoric Rise of Vivian Maier
, Pamela Bannos's research continued with access to
more than 20,000 of Maier's images including her earliest known work.

Pamela Bannos, speaking in the BBC documentary Who Took Nanny's Pictures, referring Vivian Maier's life and her posthumous story:

"This Vivian Maier story is filled with intrigue and secrecy and deception..."

Vintage transparency from the Ron Slattery Collection, April 22, 1955, Central Park.
Ektachrome 120 fillm, 12 ASA , E-2 processed

Excerpt from Pamela Bannos's book in progress, Vivian Maier's World.

On November 25, 2008, at 3:57pm, Vivian Maier fell and hit her head on the sidewalk near her north side Chicago apartment. Rushed by ambulance to a local hospital, she was treated for her injury and admitted for observation. It was an unusually cold November and snow had fallen that Tuesday morning of Thanksgiving week. Maier’s apartment was around the corner from a small beach on Lake Michigan; throughout her life, she lived near water.

From the time of her fall until her death five months later, Vivian Maier was shuttled back and forth between hospitals and nursing homes. In February, as work progressed to make her a ward of the state, an appointed guardian ad litem visited Maier in her nursing home to present her with a written Statement of Rights. He needed her acknowledgement, consent, and signature on the state’s summons.

Today, Vivian Maier’s employers and their children claim that they knew nothing about this very private woman. The guardian’s report shows that Maier, a lifelong photographer, remained insistent to the end that her eyes were her voice.

February 23, 2009:
Vivian presently resides in a single patient room. Prior to entering the room, it was necessary that I wear a plastic gown and gloves because of Vivian’s infection. Upon entering the room, I noticed Vivian in bed laying on her right side. I positioned myself directly in front of Vivian. Her eyes were open but it was clear she was not focusing on me. Standing directly before her, I attempted to attract her attention. I greeted Vivian. Vivian did not respond. In an attempt to attract her attention, I moved my right arm up and down and waived at her (a movement clearly within Vivian’s eyesight). Once again, Vivian did not respond. I then told Vivian who I was and explained the purpose of my visit. I presented Vivian with a written Statement of Rights and read the Statement of Rights to her. I asked Vivian if she had any questions. Again, Vivian did not respond. I asked Vivian whether she consented or objected to the subject Petition. Once again, Vivian did not respond. As I kept speaking, Vivian closed her eyes. I then told Vivian that based upon the serious nature of the subject proceeding and her lack of any response to the questions I asked her, as her Guardian Ad Litem, I would advise the Court it was my opinion the subject Petition should be approved and that the appointment of a Plenary Guardian of her Person and Estate was in her best interests. I then waited to see if Vivian would respond to my statement. Again, there was absolutely no response. At no time during my visit with Vivian did she speak to me, look directly at me, or attempt to communicate with me in any way.

Nearly two years had passed since Roger Gunderson purchased Vivian Maier’s storage lockers. After dividing and further auctioning her possessions into many lots, one of the buyers, John Maloof, posted one of the photographs on Flickr, a photo sharing website. It was January 1, 2009, five weeks after Maier was hospitalized. He captioned the photograph and stated her name: “1950s - Vivian Maier. This is my favorite picture of vintage Chicago. I have tons of vintage negatives from Chicago in the 50s and 60s from Vivian and this one really inspires me as a street photographer. The original negative scan has way more detail, as you can imagine.”

In the time between the auctions and Vivian Maier’s death, John Maloof was also active on Ebay, selling prints that he made from Maier’s negatives, as well as selling individual negatives that identified her by name. By the time Vivian Maier passed away in April 2009, her work had been seen by scores of people and several hundred of her negatives were scattered throughout the world. Once again, her eyes had opened.

Pamela Bannos's office wall displaying her annotated France and Manhattan maps as featured in the BBC1 documentary,
Vivian Maier: Who Took Nanny's Pictures?

July 2, 2014, Spolia Magazine and Bookslut blogs, Jessa Crispin, An Interview with Pamela Bannos.
"Pamela Bannos is working on her own book about Vivian Maier, while also teaching at Northwestern and producing and showing her own photographic work. We spoke over email about Bannos's attempts to gain access to the full Maier archive, the rescue narrative put forth by the dealers of Maier's work, and why all of the emphasis on Maier's spinster nanny life." See the interview here.

May 1, 2014, presentation at Lawrence University's Wriston Art Cente
r, Appleton, Wisconsin, Vivian Maier's Fractured Archive.

April 29, 2014
, The Chicago Reader, Deanna Isaacs, Vivian Maier, cottage industry "We could get closer to the truth by studying the full body of Maier's work, Bannos says. What she's seen so far has convinced her that Maier was "already a master of the camera" by 1950, and consciously absorbed some significant influences - including the 1952 MOMA exhibit "Five French Photographers," which featured work by Brassai and Cartier-Bresson. How does she know this? From a photo Maier took of Salvador Dali outside the museum while the exhibit was running." See the article here.

April 24, 2014
, The Daily Beast, Malcolm Jones, Vivian Maier: Still Missing "She thought of herself as a photographer," Bannos said in an interview with The Daily Beast, and the task now is not to enhance the mystery but to strip away as much as possible, to know Maier as clearly as we can." See the article here.

March 2014
, BBC production, "Vivian Maier: Who Took Nanny's Pictures?" wins the Grand Prix at Montreal's FIFA, International Festival on Films in Art.

March 2014
, BBC production, "Vivian Maier: Who Took Nanny's Pictures?" wins the Royal Television Society's best arts documentary award 2013. Pamela Bannos, pictured with director Jill Nicholls and cinematographer Daniel Meyers, here.

December 17, 2013,
release of the 50-minute American version of the BBC documentary, titled, "The Vivian Maier Mystery." View or purchase it here.

December 14, 2013, screening of the BBC documentary, "Who Took Nanny's Pictures?" at Northwestern University's Block Cinema, with introduction by Pamela Bannos.
More information here.

December 5, 2013, presentation at the University of Teesside, Middlesbrough, England.

November 30, 2013, presentation with BBC film director Jill Nicholls at The Photographers' Gallery, London, England
More information, here. See the BBC film trailer, here.

October 26, 2013, screening of the BBC documentary, "Who Took Nanny's Pictures?" at Northwestern University's Block Cinema, with introduction by Pamela Bannos, followed by a Q&A. More information here.

October 16, 2013, presentation at Brandeis University, Women's Studies Research Center:

Vivian Maier's Fractured Archive: A Woman's Story. After receiving privileged access to 20,000 Vivian Maier images, including her earliest known work, Bannos elucidates how Maier's disjointed archive complicates our reading of her life and motivations. This presentation will explore a paradoxical life and its messy aftermath, and examine the emergence of Maier's lifelong passion through eyes other than her own.

June 25, 2013, appearance in BBC1 documentary film, "Vivian Maier: Who Took Nanny's Pictures?"
BBC One's flagship arts series presented by Alan Yentob returns for an exciting new line-up on Tuesday 25 June - fresh from winning a prestigious Rose d'Or award for 2012's Imagine... Freddie Mercury: The Great Pretender. From Rod Stewart to Woody Allen, this new six-part series puts the lives of photographers, musicians, architects and directors under the Imagine spotlight, illuminating their lives and their work. Launching the new series is Vivian Maier: Who Took Nanny's Pictures?, the fascinating story of the woman described as 'Mary Poppins with a camera'.

June 24, 2013, featured researcher in online article, "Vivian Maier: lost art of an urban photographer"
Nicholls, Jill, Director, BBC One imagine. BBC, Arts & Culture, Knowledge & Learning Beta
Excerpt: Pamela Bannos, distinguished senior lecturer at Northwestern University in Illinois, says Vivian herself frequently cropped. She would have seen the image square in the viewfinder, and her composition within the square is unfailingly beautiful. Yet when she printed, she would crop the sides of the square to highlight the human drama in the centre of the frame. [cropped print example] We can't show the negative from which Vivian made this print as it is in the collection of John Maloof, who did not want us to use his pictures. (The print is owned by Jeff Goldstein, who did give us access to his collection, as did Ron Slattery.) Pamela Bannos calls this "Vivian Maier's fractured archive", which makes research into her work so very difficult. But you will find a square print of this image on John Maloof's website. The comparison is amazing - Vivian trimmed the sides to focus on the confrontation. ... In another photograph highlighted by Pamela Bannos, Vivian captures a down-and-out being taken away by police, while a well-dressed woman passes by. We love that juxtaposition of worlds. But Vivian didn't print that shot - it has been chosen for her. In another frame that she DID choose to print, she was close up on the old man at the police van, working more like a photojournalist than a poet of the human condition. In fact she cropped it to get even closer to the action."

April 16, 2013, presentation at the Chicago History Museum:
The Chicago History Museum hosts "The Reinvention of Vivian Maier", an exploration of the evolving story surrounding the prolific late photographer. Investigative Artist Pamela Bannos examines the prominent role technology and social media has played in the emergence of Maier's work and shifting accounts of her biography, which has led to the public's mounting interest in "Viral Vivian." In this cultural moment, amidst the growing romanticism with street photography and the immediacy of the internet, Maier catapulted into popularity, which has created a unique phenomenon - and plethora of fictional stories.

March 26, 2013, presentation at The Arts Club of Chicago:
Before her death, the massive photographic output of the very private Vivian Maier went up for auction and was split among three individuals. Two of these buyers have since offered Pamela Bannos full access to their collections. By extricating images from thousands of photographs, Bannos raises questions and offer some answers that demonstrate how Vivian Maier's disjointed and distorted archive complicates our reading of a photographer's life and her motivations. Central to the presentation are ideas surrounding the subjectivity of the archive, secrecy, fiction, high finance and the masses.

October 6, 2012, panel moderator at discussion at Chicago's Thomas Masters Gallery:
Pamela Bannos, photographer and distinguished senior lecturer at Northwestern University, moderates a photography panel discussion with master printers Ron Gordon and Sandra Steinbrecher and photography instructor Frank Jackowiak, who led a group of College of DuPage photographers to process Maier's undeveloped film.

August 2, 2012, featured in WTTW Chicago Public Television's "Searching for Vivian Maier." 11 minute documentary film.
Watch it here.

August 1, 2012, appearance in WTTW Chicago Public Television's "The Meteoric Rise of Vivian Maier."
11 minute documentary film. Watch it here.

(The opposite office wall.)

Contact Pamela Bannos.

© 2014 Pamela Bannos