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Photographer Henry Horenstein elevates the overlooked with shows in Portsmouth and Boston

"Fans, Thompson Speedway, Thompson, CT," 1972, from Henry Horenstein’s series "Speedway72," in "Where Everybody Is Somebody."

Horenstein, now 74, carries his camera everywhere in search of characters and communities. He has published books such as “Honky Tonk: Portraits of Country Music,” and “Show,” about the burlesque scene in New York. He also has authored popular technical manuals about photography, and a memoir, “Shoot What You Love.”

Before he turned to photography, Horenstein studied history at the University of Chicago, and with labor historian E.P. Thompson at England’s University of Warwick. The speedway job grabbed him because of what Thompson taught him.

“He was a leader of what was called ‘the bottom-up school of history,’” said Horenstein. “He thought we should be studying, recording, and documenting people who were probably going to be overlooked in history.”

Horenstein remembered Thompson saying, “‘It’s going to be a righteous job.’”

It prompted him to pick up a camera. In 1972, he was in graduate school at Rhode Island School of Design. His role model then was street photographer Weegee, but lessons about composition and tone he learned from RISD teachers, including Aaron Siskind and Harry Callahan, became implicit in his work, too.