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Hansel Mieth: Vagabond Photographer – Film Screening and Discussion

Event Details

Date: April 4, 2024
Time: 6:00 pm
–8:00 pm

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 Photographer 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.

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Speaker Biography

Nancy Schiesari


Nancy is an experienced director, producer and cinematographer on both broadcast documentaries and award winning independent films.

Her latest documentary Citizens at Last aired nationally on PBS. The film tells the story of the grit, persistence, and tactical smarts of the Texas women who organized, demonstrated, and won the vote for women. Her documentary, Canine Soldiers, the Militarization of Love, premiered at the Austin Film Festival and aired nationally on PBS over Memorial Day weekend, 2017. She also directed and produced feature-length documentaries, Cactus Jack, Lone Star on Capitol Hill, PBS, Tattooed Under Fire, PBS, Hansel Mieth-Vagabond Photographer (Independent Lens) and History Man, a half hour profile on Martin Scorsese for BBC 4, London.

Nancy comes with thirty years' experience as a Director of Photography on over 50 documentaries and feature films broadcast for England’s Channel 4, BBC, ABC, National Geographic, and PBS. She has filmed in Europe, the US, Africa, India, Pakistan, Iceland, and Latin America. She was nominated for a Television Emmy for outstanding cinematography on The Human Face (producer John Cleese). Among her work as a cinematographer is Barbara Sonneborn’s Oscar-nominated Regret to Inform, winner best documentary at Sundance, and Pratibha Parmar and Alice Walker’s i, Channel Four, London. Nancy graduated with an MFA from the Royal College of Art, London, and is a professor in production in the Radio-Television-Film Department at the University of Texas at Austin.

In 2010, she founded MO-TI productions, dedicated to making films with diverse talent committed to telling stories from new perspectives.