A city street photographer’s loners and misfits

Louis Faurer, a Philadelphia native born in 1916, made a name for himself as a photographer for top New York-based fashion magazines in the 1940s and 1950s.


[Above, a still from a silent film Faurer shot in the 1960s called Time Capsule]

Yet he was captivated by the ordinary tide of unbeautiful people that passed him regularly on city sidewalks, at bus stops, under theater marquees.


[“Women Waiting,” 1949]

Faurer turned his camera toward their faces—capturing raw, intimate portraits of the lonely, the haunted, the outcast, and the weird through the early 1970s.

Many of his images had a film noir feel, all shadows and silhouettes, highlighting the melancholy and chaos of urban life.


[Title and date unknown, above]

He particularly focused on people he found in Times Square, where he walked every day in the late 1940s and was attracted to “the hypnotic dusk light,” quoted Christoph Ribbat in Flickering Light: A History of Neon.


[“Horn & Hardart Junkies,” 1947]

In an era remembered for its conformity, Faurer sought out individual quirks and oddities. He captured dissonant, uncomfortable moments, but he never sought to exploit his subjects. His aim, as his photos reveal, was to show their humanity.

New York, 1971

[Above, “Chelsea Hotel,” 1971]

FaurerphotoselfIn his 2001 obituary, The New York Times stated:

“For the catalog of a 1981 solo exhibition of his work at the Art Gallery of the University of Maryland in College Park, he wrote, ‘My eyes search for people who are grateful for life, people who forgive and whose doubts have been removed, who understand the truth, whose enduring spirit is bathed by such piercing white light as to provide their present and future with hope.”’

Louis Faurer, above. More of his images can be found here at this University of Pennsylvania page.

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8 Responses to “A city street photographer’s loners and misfits”

  1. Ellen Levitt Says:

    Wonderful photos! I liked the ones with the women in front of the ad, and the Hot Wheels car.

  2. Keith Goldstein Says:

    Always loved his work. Faurer was befriended by a young Robert Frank, who seemed to take some visual lessons from him.

  3. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    He never received the critical attention Frank did, who spoke about why in this article: http://www.nytimes.com/2001/12/30/magazine/the-lives-they-lived-gallery-louis-faurer-b-1916-friends-through-the-lens.html

  4. carolegill Says:

    Amazing photography. thank you for posting.

  5. velvethead Says:

    There’s my Big Wheel!

  6. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    I must say the sight of one (“parked” on the doorstep no less!) makes me very happy….

  7. ARTweLIKE: Louis Faurer | astound me: D.A. Krolak Says:

    […] via A city street photographer’s loners and misfits | Ephemeral New York. […]

  8. A photographer captures a New York City of abstraction in the 1940s | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] street photographers who point their cameras all over the city tend to focus on people in motion in recognizable […]

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