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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
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
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