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Bill Rauhauser, Dean of Detroit Photography

Updated on August 31, 2016

Bill Rauhauser--20th Century Photography in Detroit

Bill Rauhauser, dean of Detroit photography at age 92, introduced a retrospective book of his work with a lecture and book signing at Book Beat in Oak Park December 12, 2010, in the middle of a snow storm. The fifty or so people who braved the icy roads to come to the affair found it well worth their while. Rauhauser spoke non-stop for a half hour or so, stopping only for an occasional sip of wine. He was followed by Mary Desjarlais who helped put the book together and wrote the introductory biography of Bill Rauhauser. Cary Loren, owner of Book Beat then commented briefly on Rauhauer's work and theory of photography. His remarks were followed by a lively question and answer session.

Rauhauser's interest in photography dates to his high school years in Detroit when he bought his first camera and has continued unabated since. He studied and worked as an architectural engineer but his true love was always photography. He first pursued it by joining photography clubs where he learned from other hobbyist photographers. His interest in street photography came into focus as a result of a visit to the Museum of Modern Art in 1947 where he was inspired by Henri Cartier-Bresson's photographs. Later, Rauhausen was influenced by the street photography of Robert Frank. In 1964, feeling too constrained by the norms of club photography, he and three camera club friends started the Group 4 Gallery, the first photography gallery in Detroit. The gallery had a profound effect on creative photography in Detroit but was not a financial success, closing in 1968. An associate of Rauhauser, Tom Halsted, opened the Halsted Gallery in Birmingham which showed national as well as Detroit photographers. It was an immediate success. In the late sixties Rauhauser persuaded Detroit Institute of Arts director, Willis Woods, that the DIA should add to it's tiny photography collection. He worked with graphic arts curator Ellen Sharp to expand the DIA's photography collection. He has since lectured at DIA and acted as a consultant to the museum.

Rauhauser taught photography at the Society of Arts and Crafts (now the College of Creative Studies) which was one of the first institutions in the country to offer a photography program. Rauhauer taught the history of photography course at CCS for thirty-five years. He also taught as a visiting lecturer at Wayne State University and the University of Michigan. His photographs appeared in the "Family of Man" photography exhibit and book and can be found in museums around the world. Rauhausen cited three factors which sparked wide interest in photography and helped it become a recognized art form. The first was Life magazine which brought photography to the attention of millions of Americans every month. The second was the Family of Man exhibit and books. The third factor which Rauhauser mentioned was the support by the Farm Services Administration for depression-era photographers such as Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange and others.

After another fifteen minutes or so Carey called for one more question which was answered by Mr. Rauhauser. We then moved to a room at the back of the store whose walls were lined with Rauhauser photos where everyone lined up for Bill and Mary to sign the books. The lively discussion continued while the books were signed.

Bill Rauhauser
Bill Rauhauser | Source
Photo by Bill Rauhauser
Photo by Bill Rauhauser | Source

The Front View of the Photo

Bill told an amusing story about when he saw an image on CNN which he was sure was one of his. He waited until it appeared again along with commentary that the image was creating a sensation in the lobby of a hotel in New York City. So he asked a former student to go to the hotel and find out what was going on. It turned out that his photo had inspired a sculptor to create a sculpture of the three figures on the bench by the Detroit river facing them from the front. The three figures were nude. Two were embracing and the third, as in Rauhauer's photo. was leaning with her elbow on the shoulder of the woman next to her.

Mary Desjarlais and Cory Loren
Mary Desjarlais and Cory Loren
Mary Desjarlais
Mary Desjarlais


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    • Ralph Deeds profile imageAUTHOR

      Ralph Deeds 

      8 years ago from Birmingham, Michigan

      Me, too!

    • bdmatboard profile image


      8 years ago from Michigan

      I really admire him!

    • Ralph Deeds profile imageAUTHOR

      Ralph Deeds 

      9 years ago from Birmingham, Michigan

      Thanks for the comments. Rauhauser is amazing and his photography is first rate.

    • FCEtier profile image


      9 years ago from Cold Mountain

      Voted this up!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Excellent, I wish I lived closer I would have attended


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