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4.3 out of 5 stars
Vivian Maier: Street Photographer
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163 of 174 people found the following review helpful
on December 2, 2011
I absolutely love Vivian Maier's photographs. Unfortunately the book is printed very poorly by Asia Pacific Offset in China chosen by powerHouse Book. The halftoning pattern interacts with the original grain of the print or negative to create an ugly effect. The sepia toning is overdone and nauseating. But the biggest problem has to do with the depth of blacks and shadows. I measured the deepest black in most images at a density of 1.6, which isn't really black, more like coffee with cream. What a pitty.

EDIT: increased rating in light of the discussion associated with this review and to take into account the price of the book. The quality is ok for a $26 book but is obviously not the quality found in a $100 book.
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121 of 133 people found the following review helpful
on December 2, 2011
I've loved Vivan's work since the day I saw it in The British Photography Journal. I was excited about this book for months. I really had expected it to be amazing like what I have seen on the website. The blank pages are fine by me it is similar to Robert Frank's The Americans which also had blank pages in the 1st edition but later were taken out. They give the book room to breath. The reason why I am giving this book a review of a 3 is because the prints are very hard for me to look at. They are not printed in a true black and white they have this disgusting sepia tone to them it is slight enough that it bothers my eyes a terrible amount. I do not feel that these pictures have to have this tacky nostalgia look to them. I hope that someone important reads this and prints a copy in true black and white, or by some chance im the only one who got a sepia book. I ordered a second one for my mother so I hope that It will be truely black and white.
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67 of 72 people found the following review helpful
on November 26, 2011
I was interested in this book when I read the announcement and for the price I couldn't leave it. Today it arrived and tonight I finally had the time to have a good look at the pictures.

Vivian's story is explained elsewhere, so I won't repeat it. I'll just give my impressions of the book.

All pictures appear to be taken with the Rolleiflex, giving square pictures. All pictures have the same size and similar toning, which gives a great consistency throughout the book. The pictures themselves show everyday scenes from a long time ago, from all parts of society. You'll find old people, young kids, homeless people, rich folk, men and women and many different scenes. From the pictures I gather that her style was very unobtrusive, just letting the stories unravel in front of her eyes (and lens) and firing the shutter at the right time. There are quite a few pictures where you see people looking at the camera, but many more where she seems to be a passive observer.

What I love about this book is that the images come across as totally unpretentious, void of the "artsy" side some photographers appear to want to develop. Wonderful, if there's a second book coming out, I can't wait to pre-order it.

The paper and print quality is pretty decent for the price, although some pictures had tiny dots where they shouldn't be. Probably due to the price constraint. It's printed in China, which pushes the price down too I guess. Nothing bad, again, the prints are still very nice and I have more expensive books in my collection that are worse in terms of quality. Don't let this hold you back in buying the book. Amazon has a great return policy anyway.
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83 of 94 people found the following review helpful
on April 2, 2012
Got my copy of Vivian Maier. I will be returning it. I can understand the blank pages and very much appreciate Maloof's herculean efforts to get out Maier's work. Unfortunately, I do not see why the creators of this book changed the colors of the photographs. They are not true black and white and do not come close to the color quality of photographs I have seen on the web. The blacks are bleached out and the silvers are bland. All of it screaming WRONG WRONG WRONG.

Vivian Maier deserves a true photography book not some cheapened compilation. I'd pay more for a book that presents her work in a truer manner. What surprises me is that even the four star reviews mention the cruddy prints of this book. Maybe they're satisfied with that. I, for one am not. If I'm going to lay down some cash for a book, it better be something I can appreciate rather than look at with regret that the creators obviously screwed up.

If there is a printing of this book that is not full of sepia and diminished blacks? Do you know which printing it is? There seems to be conflicting information in these reviews about a German printing and the first printing. Please let us know which printing is best so we can avoid the inferior ones.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on May 13, 2012
Even given the astounding story of Vivian Maier, her brilliant work and the reasonable price of the book, sepia-toned prints would not be satisfactory at all. But my book is from the third printing, and the prints are not sepia; blacks are fully black. The most iconic image of all, and one of my all time favorites, is of a woman so very reminiscent of Marilyn Monroe, walking toward a 1956 Chevrolet. It is blurry due to hand-holding at a slow shutter speed, and perhaps out of focus, but those only add to the appeal. The image in the book delivers the impact, if not the print quality, of the exhibition print I saw a year ago in Chicago. That said, it would be interesting to do a direct comparison by taking the book to another exhibition of Vivian Maier's prints.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on January 18, 2012
I'm surprised how many one, two and three star reviews there are for this excellent photo book. On any level it really can't be faulted. Blank pages in a photo book are quite common though here the confusion was probably caused by having them very close to each other and repeated as such throughout the pages. Book designers would normally space a few blanks roughly evenly between all the photos. The printing by Asia Pacific is comparable to any other quality printed art book (and it costs less than high-end printing in Europe or the US). The duotones use a 200 screen on a very acceptable 157gsm matt art with perfect register. The slight black/ochre feel to these photos, I thought, was a reasonable color choice.

As to Vivian Maier's photos, the 106 in the book are quite stunning. In particular the framing is just prefect and I think this separates her work from other well known street photographers especially those classed as the New York School who go for a more emotional style of imagery. The photos reveal everyday street scenes in Chicago and New York and work so well because they always pull you into the composition without any distractions about what to look at first. The pacing helps here too, close-up portraits merge into medium shots and then, perhaps, a long shot saturated with detail. The more I looked through these pages the more the sequencing added to the photos.

If I have a criticism it is that there is really nothing about Vivian Maier. Her named website gives some background and I think it would have been helpful to the reader to have included some of this material

John Maloof, the book's editor, is to be congratulated on finding and preserving a treasure trove of photos by an unknown photographer who had such a remarkable eye. I'm hoping this will be the first of many books revealing Ms Maier's creative vision.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on January 5, 2015
I was very excited to receive this book. I love Vivian's work. But this book ruins it. The print quality is terrible. For whatever reason they are printing it in a sepia tone with terrible tonality. I would not recommend this book for anyone. The photos look a million times better on the website. I showed the comparison to people who are not photographers and they could immediately see the difference and preferred the website versions.

I would return it but the cost of shipping it back is equal to the cost of the book.

Save yourself time and money and check out her work on her website.
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27 of 34 people found the following review helpful
on December 1, 2011
The photographs in this book are immensely beautiful; uncannily unique, well-composed, subtle, thoughtful, and genuinely interesting to look at. These are pictures which I have little doubt will change how we think about, look at, and take photographs. Maier's work will become the standard which all other similar bodies of work will be judged by.

It is odd and most unfortunate that no attempt was made to get in contact with Maier during her lifetime. Her work was discovered in 2007, and it wasn't until 2009 that she died. This left two full years to allow for even an acknowledgement to her that her work had been found. From what I've read, there is nothing indicating she had any aliments that would have inhibited her from communicating with anyone, even late in her life.

The consequence of this lack of communication can be certainly found in this book. While the arrangement of the pictures is decent, it lacks the flow and subtlety that is present with the photographer arranging his own work - or even an artist close to him, who knows something about what the artist thought about the work. While it is known that Maier made narrative films and audio documentaries, it doesn't seem like she explicitly shared any insight about her photographs. This allows for sometimes questionable interpretations about her and her work which is distressing. For example, in the introduction by Maloof, he writes. "...the combination of Maier's intense privacy and lack of confidence in her own photographic prowess nearly resulted in her collection being consigned to oblivion." How in the world does he know that Maier lacked confidence in her work? "Street" photography - and I don't even really like calling it that - is something that requires a huge amount of confidence, both in your pictures and in your integrity as a photographer. There were likely very personal and fitful reasons why she never revealed her work which we will never be able to fathom, and it is meanwhile completely unfair to make statements or even educated assumptions about something we know absolutely nothing about.

On the point of arrangement of the photographs: pictures with similar shapes and patterns are put together on a page. This does bring attention to the excellent composition of the images, but this detracts focus from some of the more subtle details in an individual picture. It also makes the work seem repetitive, which both her work and street photography in general is certainly not. Many photographs that dominate two pages feel lonely and distant, and would mend well together with certain other pictures in the book. On the other hand, some pictures which share pages with other images are so quirky that they deserve two pages alone. There is a section at the end of the book full of self-portraits which is well-executed.

Printing quality is good with sufficient detail - though a bit dark, and I don't think the warm tone that was chosen compliments the work. Paper stock is glossy and of a good quality, and the construction of the book is solid. The cover is a neutral light gray cloth with the title, author, and publisher stamped on the spine and the initials "VM" stamped on the front cover. End-paper is a quirky orange. Printed in China, as are most photo books these days.

I wish that sometime in the future Maloof will hand this wonderful collection over to a trust or company that really knows how to publish photographs, such as the MOMA, so the work gets the presentation that it deserves. I'm exceptionally glad that he was able to unify this collection (after a lot if it got sold off) - and it's obvious that he genuinely cares about this work, but these pictures should be handled by a company or trust which is more accustomed with dealing with this high level of work.

The value of this book is great, but do keep in mind that it doesn't hold the level of quality that a "fine art" book would have, published a company such as Twin Palms or Steidl. It is a true pity that Maier could never share thoughts about her work. However, if you hold the mindset of letting the photographs truly speak for themselves, you'll be very pleased with this book.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on February 2, 2012
I was very pleased to finally see some of Vivian Maier's work published. Thank you to all who worked to make that happen with this book.

The book's simple design and repro work is fine. But..if only the (source) printing work had been done more skillfully. Many of the images looks like they came from poor amateur scans of poor amateur inkjet prints. Contrast is painfully high, removing all tonal subtlety from many images. And who thought that warm-toning these images was a good idea? Ugh!

Perhaps one day, after more of Vivian's work in uncovered a mature and professional hand will take charge of producing another book of her work. With prominent photo dealers like Howard Greenberg now involved (in showing her work) my hopes are high.

Until then, however, this is what we have. It's certainly better than nothing. But that's about the best I can say about this book.
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30 of 40 people found the following review helpful
on March 8, 2012
I just got my book. i was so excited. I had gone into NYC to her show and was blown away. This was a complete let down. I have pages that are BLANK . Yep, nothing on the page. The colors are mud brown and grey not black and white. Very disappointed.
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