University of Texas at Austin professorÕs documentary to air on PBS; Nancy Schiesari explores the life and work of Hansel Mieth

April 25, 2003

AUSTIN, Texas—University of Texas at Austin professor and filmmaker Nancy Schiesari’s documentary “Hansel Mieth: Vagabond Photographer” will air nationally on “Independent Lens,” Independent Television Service’s new weekly primetime series on PBS.

Schiesari, a producer, director and writer, tells the compelling tale of Hansel Mieth, a female photojournalist from Germany who immigrated to the United States in the 1930s and went on to become a celebrated LIFE Magazine staff photographer, only the second woman to occupy that position.

“Hansel Mieth photographed unforgettable images of some of the most momentous turning points in modern history,” Schiesari said. “Both her life and her work stand as a testament to her unyielding commitment to photojournalism and social justice.”

Schiesari was drawn to Mieth’s photographs when she encountered them in Photography Forum. She says that Mieth’s significant contributions to American heritage are dangerously close to fading into obscurity. Therefore, it is with a sense of urgency that Schiesari brings Mieth’s legacy to light.

The documentary highlights Mieth’s life-long love affair with fellow photographer Otto Hagel, with whom she worked as migrant worker in the Salinas Valley during the Great Depression, experiencing the same hunger and despair as their co-workers. Mieth documented the desperation of that time, from Depression-era hardships to the assault on civil liberties in Japanese-American internment camps.

Schiesari reveals Mieth’s extraordinary life experiences by intercutting taped interviews and voice-over narration with poetic imagery. The result is a richly-woven documentary that realizes Mieth as a significant contributor to the cultural context of her time. The 53-minute documentary is narrated by Mieth in her own words. She died in 1998 before she could see the film completed.

Schiesari, an Emmy-nominated cinematographer, has filmed dozens of documentaries around the world. She teaches cinematography at The University of Texas at Austin and shoots and directs freelance assignments. 

“Hansel Mieth: Vagabond Photographer” will air at 9 p.m. on Tuesday, May 27 on PBS (broadcast channel 18, cable channel 9). The film will premiere at a benefit screening at the Alamo Drafthouse in downtown Austin at noon on Sunday, May 4. This benefit screening is open to the public and admission is $6.

For more information contact: Erin Geisler, College of Communication, 512-475-8071.