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Thursday, 2 September 2010

Jack Delano: Freaks (The Rutland Fair, Vermont)

Image, Source: b&w film copy neg. of print Decorations at a sideshow

Image, Source: intermediary roll film

Outside a freak show

Image, Source: intermediary roll film

Fortune teller

Image, Source: intermediary roll film

''Backstage' at the 'girlie' show

Image, Source: intermediary roll film

Spectators at the sulky races

Photos by Jack Delano at the Rutland Fair, Vermont, September 1941 (Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Collection, Library of Congress)


TC said...

I don't know whether it was those "sideshow decoration" monkeys looking out at (laughing at?) the Yankee fairground spectators; or the prospect of mutant-human "wonders" (grotesqueries) promised at the Freak Show; or the forlorn empty tent of the Fortune Teller; or the even more forlorn "backstage" scene at the "girlie show"; or, possibly the most telling of all these evidences, the physically repellent (palefaced, largely corpulent) appearance of the sulky race crowd; but... at the end of the day, the stranger-in-a-strange-land quality of this particular photo-series, done by a young man from New York (son of Ukrainian immigrants), to whom Vermont may as well have been the Moon, struck me as a telling objective catalogue of monstrosity.

TC said...

By the way, for those who may have missed it, Jack Delano's brilliant colour work from the Rutland Fair may be found here.

Elmo St. Rose said...

there but for fortune
go you and I,
but for genetic drift or

being aggrandized by
someone else's odd
perhaps an ultimate

it's scientific understanding
and perhaps a development
of the Christian heart
that has spread the sense
of brotherhood and inclusion
to the malformed, though they still
suffer from it,
they are not the objects
of derision or planned astonishment
of spectators

we could say there has been some progress
then for those who were once considered "freak"

TC said...


It would always be good to believe in progress, never more so than at a time like this, when things are moving backward at such a frightening rate.

As a child I witnessed Freak Shows at Riverview Park, a large "amusement park" in Chicago. In a loud smoke-filled tent I watched fully grown adults gape at a woman who, naked to the waist, manipulated objects with a third arm, which grew out of her midsection. She laughed as she did this, and the spectators were impressed.

I was born with a genetic connective tissue disorder, Ehlers Danlos syndrome, which has significantly affected my own stay in this amusement park known as human life.

An early girlfriend let this information leak to her father, who took her to the Bronx Zoo, and there, sitting upon a bench, revealed to her, in the marked pages of a medical text, garish photos of persons suffering from this particular disorder.

What do you suppose was his intent in doing this, I asked her.

Discouragement, she said.

I wish I could say things have changed since then. But I wonder. Said the freak.

(By the by, that's the first time in a while I've heard the words "Christian" and "heart" used together. This is touching.)