PHSNE’s March 2021 Zoom meeting hosts curator Mary Panzer for a presentation on a form of commercial portraiture practiced around the globe from the 1930s through the 1970s, but has largely disappeared. Her talk, “Street Vendor Portraits: A Democratic Art,” is scheduled for Sunday, March 7, 2021, at 7:30 PM EST.
The street vendor photographers used a special camera, taking the photographs first, then offering a numbered card with a pitch, “See yourself in motion, as others see you!” For a small fee, the subject gets his/her print (identified by number) in a day or two. Subjects always appear at full length, in motion, roughly centered and clearly identified within the surrounding public space. These conventions hold true regardless of the race, gender or class of the subject or the photographer or when the image was made.
Two young women caught by a street vendor photographer in pre-war Czernowitz, Poland look a lot like one snapped in 1960s San Francisco or a couple walking together in pre-apartheid South Africa. One at a time, these anonymous images show a subject and photographer in perfect balance. In quantity, they offer unmatched records of the public sphere where the images were made. Flea markets sell only the ones that were approved and purchased by the subjects, but rare archives, like Rochester’s Visual Studies Workshop (VSW), include the out-takes. The images for this talk come from San Francisco, Capetown, South Africa, and Czernowitz, Poland; some are from private collections.
For over thirty years, Mary Panzer has studied photography and American culture; from 1992-2000 she was Curator of Photographs at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery. She divides her time between Rochester, NY and Manhattan. She has written about Richard Avedon, Mathew Brady, Lewis Hine, Stanley Kubrick. and LIFE Magazine, and is coauthor of “Things as They Are: Photojournalism in Context Since 1955”. Featured images above; Anonymous street vendor photographs from 1930s Poland (left) and pre-apartheid South Africa (right)
For additional details: Visual Studies Workshop (VSW), Rochester, NY