From September 9 to December 18, 2016, The Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson dedicates an exhibition to the American photographer, Louis Faurer.
This show is the occasion to discover this artist who has not been the subject of an exhibition in France since 1992. A native of Philadelphia, Louis Faurer moved to New York after the War, as if irresistibly pulled into the life of Times Square, where he homed in, objectively and pitilessly, on loneliness in the crowd. Reporting held little interest for him, and journalism even less; he was drawn – as the captions to his photographs sometimes indicate – to the poetic side: the fragility of things and the unconscious revelation. He carried out much-admired commissions for leading magazines including Flair, Junior Bazaar, Glamour and Mademoiselle. This gave rise to an unfeigned self-contempt and a paradoxical inner division only humor could counter. These assignments earned a living and helped him pursue a more personal work in New York streets.
Profoundly honest, he refused the excessiveness (or obscenity) of violent scenes that might humiliate his subjects, and deliberately projected himself into the people he photographed; and if he often recognized himself in them, this was the whole point. Sometimes he encountered his double, or even appeared in shot as a reflection. Each of his images was “a challenge to silence and indifference” – theirs and his own.
After studying drawing and being noticed by the Disney Studios at the age of thirteen, Louis Faurer started his professional path by creating advertising posters and sketching caricatures in the seaside of Atlantic City. At the age of 21, he bought his first camera and won first prize for “Photo of the Week” in a contest sponsored by the Philadelphia
Evening Public Ledger. Market Street would then be the scene of his first shots. In 1947, he left for New York, as Lilian Bassman, art director for Junior Bazaar, hired him as a photographer. He met Robert Frank who was to become a close friend and with who he would share a studio for a while. In 1968, he abandoned New York, the scene of his most successful work, for personal and financial reasons. Faurer worked briefly in England, and then in Paris where he struggled doing fashion work, with occasional assignments from Elle and French Vogue. Shortly after Faurer returned to New York in 1974 at the age of 58, he found that photography was being embraced by the art world and was soon to become a commodity in the international art market. The art dealer, Harry Lunn brought his work to public attention through an exhibition at Marlborough Gallery in 1997 and resurrected his career, his contribution then began to be acknowledged. In 1984, a car in New York streets hit Faurer, his wounds prevented him to pursue his career as a photographer. He passed away in Manhattan on March 2, 2001. Deeply concerned with what he saw, he shares his doubts with us as he chooses anonymous figures spotted amid the ordinariness of the sidewalk: figures pulled out of the ambient melancholy, the film noir, the pervasive distress that seem to have been his personal lot. A remarkably gifted printer, Faurer experimented with blur, overlaid negatives and the marked graininess resulting from his fondness for the nocturnal. His touchiness meant frequent problems with clients and people like the numerous photographers who tried to lend a helping hand; among the latter was William Eggleston, who had discerned the unique depth of Faurer’s work. The issue the elegant Japanese photography quarterly déjà vu devoted to him in 1994 speaks of a rediscovery and a style ahead of its time, and quotes Nan Goldin: “Some people believe again that photography can be honest”.
In 1948, Edward Steichen, Head of the Department of Photography of the MoMA, supported Faurer and included him in In and Out of Focus. Steichen wrote: “Louis Faurer, a new comer in the field of documentary reporting, is a lyricist with a camera, a seeker and finder of magic in some of the highways and byways of life.” Afterwards, Steichen presented Faurer photographs in a few other exhibitions and in particular The Family of Man, in 1955. During his lifetime, Faurer did not have the wherewithal to edit his photographs into a book.
The exhibition is curated by Agnès Sire The Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson director in collaboration with The Louis Faurer Estate in New York, Howard Greenberg Gallery in New York and Deborah Bell Photographs. The show includes a hundred prints and documents has been The exhibition is co produced with the Centro José Guerrero in Grenada.