Saturday, 8 April 2017

Master of the street scene

Despite having twelve one-man shows from 1959 to 1999 and also included in several group exhibitions Louis Faurer is not too well known though buyers of American fashion magazines in the fifties and European ones in the late sixties have probably seen his fashion photography. This delightful book of photos looks at his non-commercial work in Philadelphia but mostly New York from 1937 to 1952 .

Faurer was one of the New York School of street photographers who lived and worked in the city, they explored the potential of capturing everyday life of ordinary people. Several photos in the book suggest that Faurer sought out the downtrodden on the streets, beggars, cripples, the retarded and took very sympathetic pictures of them. He also liked to work at night in the streets surrounding Times Square. Photographer Sid Kaplan says this was because there were thousands of incandescent bulbs in use during the forties for movie marques, ads, shops et cetera, Faurer said this provided a brilliant light for black and white shots (I've since found out that when neon replaced the incandescent bulbs it changed the quality of light for the worse as far as photographers were concerned).

The hundred mono photos in the book show people on the street walking, resting, talking, waiting and especially, in the night shots, gazing. Very few show anyone looking directly at Faurer's camera. All but three photos have people in them. What I particularly liked about this book of photos (printed as tritones with a 175 screen) was their presentation on the page. The book is about the size of a hardback novel and the photos roughly postcard size with very generous margins but because so many of them have dark areas or were taken at night as medium or close-up shots their relatively small size gives them a special sort of intimacy as I turned the pages.

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