Growing up in Philadelphia, Faurer showed an early aptitude for illustration. He bought his first camera in 1937 from the photographer Ben Somoroff. After a couple of jobs as a photographic technician, Faurer made his way to Manhattan and into the world of fashion photography. He quickly made contacts that stood him in good stead: Robert Frank, with whom he shared a darkroom/studio and fast friendship, and Walker Evans, whom he'd long admired, who introduced him to Alexander Liberman at Vogue. Faurer photographed for magazines including Junior Bazaar, Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, Look, Life, Mademoiselle, Elle and Glamour for more than twenty years. He complained that his work at Life involved too much travel, so he quit in the early 1950s. Most of the prints and negatives of his fashion work have probably been discarded, as Faurer stored them with a friend when he left the country in the late 1960s, then failed to reclaim them.
It is Faurer’s personal work from the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s for which he is best remembered. He photographed the streets of New York and Philadelphia, capturing the restless energy of urban life. His sensitive lens probed the great variety of the city's human face, especially "the lonely Times Square people for whom Faurer felt a deep sympathy."
Faurer experimented with blur, grain, double exposures, sandwiched negatives, reflections, slow film speeds, and low lighting. As exacting in the darkroom as he was in the field, he was notorious for being a tireless perfectionist when it came to cropping and printing his work.
In the mid- and late 1960s Faurer experimented with hand-held 16 mm film, using Arriflex and Beaulieu movie cameras, filming in the streets of Manhattan, extending his still camera style into a cinematic medium.
Between 1969 and 1974 he lived and worked abroad, mostly in Paris. From the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s, Faurer taught at numerous art schools and universities, including the Parsons School of Design in New York City, the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Yale University, The New School for Social Research and Stockton State College in New Jersey. He received grants from the NEA and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation (1979).
Faurer’s first solo show was held at Helen Gee's Limelight Gallery in 1959. In 1977 he had his second solo exhibition, at the Marlborough Gallery in Manhattan, followed by a 1981 exhibition at The Art Gallery at the University of Maryland. A posthumous show, first mounted at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, in 2002, traveled to several cities.
In 1984, while running to catch a city bus, Faurer was struck by a car and seriously injured. He never photographed again.
“I am in awe of the high point he can reach in a photograph such as Family, Times Square, at the center of New York in the center of our century. Perhaps no other American image stands comparison with Picasso’s Family of Saltimbanques, on their imagined European plane in 1905….Faurer stands and lives as a master of his medium.” —Walter HoppsLouis Faurer: Photographs from Philadelphia and New York, 1937-1973. College Park, Maryland: University of Maryland Art Gallery, 1981. Edited by Edith A. Tonelli and John Gossage. Curated and with texts by Louis Faurer and Walter Hopps.
Louis Faurer. Collection Photo Poche. Paris: Centre National de la Photographie, 1992. With an introduction by Martin Harrison. Notes by Stuart Alexander.
Wilkes Tucker, Anne, Louis Faurer. London/New York: Merrell Publishers, 2002. ISBN 1-85894-165-2; ISBN 978-1-85894-165-3.