In Hansel Mieth: Vagabond Photographer (2003, 60 mins), filmmaker Nancy Schiesari presents the life of one of America’s great women photographers and one of the first staff photographers at LIFE, whose Depression-era documentary photographs and commitment to social justice and activism inspired concerned artists everywhere. The screening will be followed by a moderated question and answer session with Schiesari.
Hansel Mieth: Vagabond Photrographer is the compelling tale of a pioneering woman photojournalist who created some of the most indelible images of America mid-20th century. A German immigrant who arrived in this country in the midst of the Great Depression, she rose to become a celebrated LIFE magazine staff photographer. Armed with convictions, perseverance, and talent, Mieth courageously carved out a career in the male-dominated world of photojournalism at a time when very few women were accepted in the profession.
A contemporary and friend of such respected photographers as Imogen Cunningham, Peter Stackpole, Dorothea Lange, Carl Mydans, and Margaret Bourke-White, Hansel Mieth remains one of the great but still undiscovered women photojournalists of this century. During the “golden age of photojournalism” (1930s-1950s), her work appeared in virtually every pictorial magazine in the world. She documented the casualties of social injustice — from Depression-era hardships to the alarming assault on civil liberties in Japanese American internment camps. Yet through her talents as a photographer, Mieth gave her subjects a nobility — a sense that the lives she captured on film had an intelligence and worth few others had noticed.
Filmmaker Nancy Schiesari reveals Mieth’s extraordinary life experiences by intercutting taped interviews and voice-over narration with poetic imagery, both through archival flashback (selected for artistic merit as much as for historical context) and through Mieth’s photographs. The result is a richly woven documentary that places Hansel Mieth as a significant contributor to the cultural context of her time.