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Louis FaurerReview - Louis Faurer
by Anne Wilkes Tucker
Merrell Publishers, 2002
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D.
Jul 22nd 2002 (Volume 6, Issue 30)

This wonderful collection of photographs by Louis Faurer focuses on his images of New York and Philadelphia from the late 1930s to the 1950s, but also includes some of his other work from other places and times.  It starts with two excellent essays by Anne Wilkes Tucker and Lisa Hostetler setting out the background of Faurer's life and work, often illustrating their points by using details from his photographs.  Faurer earned his income mostly through fashion photography for women's magazines, but he was far more interested in what he considered his serious work, taking pictures of people on city streets.

            Faurer clearly has a strong sense of sympathy with people who have fallen on hard times or have difficult lives: several of his subjects are people selling small items in the street, often with written messages such as "Both eyes removed – I am totally blind."  Many of his subjects are young, old, minorities, or disabled.  But Faurer also captures odd interactions between people – a woman touching up her husband's comb-over, an couple holding hands where the woman has one of her fingers extended out, (humorously titled "Freudian Handclasp, New York, NY 1946-9").  Occasionally he also photographs the wealthy, and his pictures of them tend to be unflattering, lacking the warmth and vulnerability of his other subjects.

            Visually, Faurer's images are extremely powerful and often playful.  He loved photographing in the brightly lit streets of New York at night, with brilliantly illuminated advertisements and shiny cars reflecting lights.  He also was fond of capturing reflections of people in windows and even of double-exposed photographs, creating striking juxtapositions of images.  In "Staten Island Ferry" from 1946, we can see the outline of Manhattan reflected doubly in a window; tellingly, the photograph has the alternative title, "I Once Dreamed About the Most Beautiful City in the World." 

            Maybe what is most impressive about these pictures is that they show another side of life, very different from the conventional view of wholesome family life that is often taken to dominate American culture during that time.  Faurer was a great photographic artist, and his work deserves the recognition this book provides.

 

© 2002 Christian Perring. All rights reserved.

Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island. He is editor of Metapsychology Online Review. His main research is on philosophical issues in psychiatry. He is especially interested in exploring how philosophers can play a greater role in public life, and he is keen to help foster communication between philosophers, mental health professionals, and the general public.


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