Louis Faurer

Pennsylvania Station, New York, 1946-47

One photographer whose work I came across when reading and looking at photographs from The Family of Man exhibition was Louis Faurer. I have decided to look at his work more closely as I feel there is an intriguing quality to his photographs that will be beneficial for me to look at and discuss to influence my relationship project ideas. 

Louis Faurer was an American fashion and street photographer. His personal work that he took between the 1940s and 60s is what particularly interests me, which were mainly street photographs taken in New York where he had a particular sympathy for the people of Times Square. At this time America was becoming a postwar society and his subjects often look as though they are recovering from the war or the depression of the 1930s.  

His photographs show us a New York that is made up of traffic, country boys, fast girls, hotels, old timers and tourists. Faurer seemed drawn to people who look like they had money but now look to be survivors of their wealth; they appear well dressed but tired and worn down. And despite these photographs being taken on the busy streets of New York they show us intimate moments that appear part of a longer sequence. His images seem to comment on order and control in this society, they freeze moments in ways that make them feel part of the cities routine. 

Detail of 5th Avenue, New York N.Y.C 1948
Above is one of my favourite photographs of Faurer's and shows two identical twins walking alongside one another on 5th Avenue in New York. What you instantly feel when looking at this photograph is this feeling of confrontation that Faurer has created because these two women are obviously aware of the photographer, as they are looking straight down the lens of Faurer's camera.

I was reading about this photograph in one of Faurer's books and he did a lot of cropping to this photograph to get the heads of these two women to fill the frame. This with the space above them allows the viewer to look up past these women and notice these two men stood behind them looking looking at the camera in a similar way. It suggests a real interest in relationships and the empathy Faurer had for his subjects, in comparison to someone like Arbus who would often isolate her subjects and give stigma to the people she photographed. 

This photograph also shows us Faurer's style of photography, which borrowed heavily from the film noir idiom. Using large amounts of shadow and darkness, high contrast and more unusual compositional techniques as shown in this image with the tight cropping. He explored the psychological subject matter of America's anxiety in it's transition to a postwar society with a visual approach informed by documentary photography. These very subjective, psychological images of people relate very much to films of psychological exploration, such as those of Michelangelo Antonioni and Stanley Kubrick. I think what makes his images so potent is the way solitude is created in these moments on the busy streets of New York. 

The film noir style in particular however makes these images to look at now a days a rather haunting experience. These images seem to show us a new intimidating American force that eventually led them into the cold war. The busy streets of this American city here look to be disconnected and reflective; showing us how American people readjusted. 

Looking at these psychological, raw and melancholic images of American people at this time has made me think more about potential subject matter I could photograph here in Cornwall. Looking more at a theme and doing more candid street photography that aligns with and reflects that theme. For example I have listed potential subject matter such as a pre-brexit Cornwall and the anticipation of the UK leaving the EU in this community. I have also thought about what more closely effects the local people here and also students here in Falmouth. I would need to work out my approach however and if it really is the kind of work I would like to create before committing to a project of this kind. It really isn't the kind of work I have thought about creating before. However I do think I need to start going out and trying some street photography, to see if I am comfortable taking photographs in this way. 

14th street horn and hardart new york 1947

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