Unfinished Stories: The Narrative Photography of Hansel Mieth and Marion Palfi

RIT Press

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Unfinished Stories presents a parallel study of the lives and narrative photography of Hansel Mieth (1909-1998) and Marion Palfi (1907-1978). Mieth was the second woman staff photographer employed by Life magazine. Palfi's photo of Henry Street Settlement kids was the first cover of Ebony magazine. German born émigrés who never met, they constructed remarkably similar photo narratives of unseen America. They were visual storytellers, artists, and citizen-photographers who do not fit easily into contemporary categories of photojournalism or documentary photography. Great risk-takers, they grasped the complexities inherent in representing human beings as individuals, as part of an ethnic, racial or labor group, and as citizens colonized in their own land. They may have photographed the circumstances of alienation, but their themes involved connection, human relationships, and solidarity. Unfinished Stories offers a fresh and theoretically informed eye on representational photography. It forges a place for Hansel Mieth and Marion Palfi in the history of photography and in the history of American race and class struggle.

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Janet Zandy is emerita professor of English at Rochester Institute of Technology. She is the author of the award-winning Hands: Physical Labor, Class, and Cultural Work and other books on American working-class culture.


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