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

by Janet Zandy
Price: $34.99

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. 

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.

Foreword by Anne Wilkes Tucker, Gus and Lyndall Wortham Curator of Photography, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

This book was produced in association with the Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona, Tucson.


Book details

Publisher: RIT Press (08/2013)
ISBN-13: 978-1-933360-76-8
Binding: Softcover
Pages: 224
Illustrations: 98 black and white
Size: 8.5 x 10.5 in.
Shipping Weight: 1.4

Table of contents

Foreword by Anne Wilkes Tucker 


Pairings: Introduction 

Hansel Mieth

Marion Palfi

Pairings: Parallels

Photography as Knowledge



Selected Bibliography

Archival Information and Illustration Credits



"In this extraordinary book about the visions of two very different photographers, both of exceptional courage and conviction, Janet Zandy has brought to the forefront a new appreciation for the works of Hansel Mieth and Marion Palfi. The biographies of both artists, written as life stories by Zandy, provide timeless explorations of the socio-cultural marrow of America."
James Enyeart
Photographer, Writer, Historian

 "There are very few women street photographers in the history of women’s photography in the 20th century, with Mieth and Palfi the clear exceptions. Zandy shows how they brought the world of their subjects to the viewer, often depicting the same subject matter through two different lenses, both serving their subjects as artists—utilizing the poignancy of the transcendence of photography to move the viewer."
Nancy Schiesari
Professor, Radio-TV-Film Department
University of Texas at Austin

 "How could we know about these traveling photographers of life in the American’s underbelly when they didn’t even know of each other? It took Janet Zandy’s research and commitment to bring their works out of the silence and invisibility of the past to the light of today thereby introducing each to each other posthumously."
-Review by Sue Doro in Pride and a Paycheck

"Janet Zandy’s book Unfinished Stories: The Narrative Photography of Hansel Mieth and Marion Palfi is not only an outstanding and much-needed addition to the literature of working class culture, but also the history of documentary photography. . . . Zandy’s book is a must-read for those interested in working class culture or the history of photography."
 -Reviewed by Mary Lou Nemanic in Working-Class Studies Newsletter