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Monday, 6 September 2010

John Vachon: In the Heartland: Belief at the Junction


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File:Church near Junction City, Kansas.jpg

Small country church located near the town of Junction City, Kansas, 1942 or 1943

Image, Source: digital file from original transparency

Geologist examining cuttings from wildcat well, Amarillo, Texas, 1942 or 1943

Image, Source: digital file from original transparency

De-waxing plant at the Mid-Continent Refinery, Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1942 or 1943

Image, Source: digital file from original slide

Eagle Fruit Store and Capitol Hotel, Lincoln, Nebraska, 1942

Image, Source: digital file from original transparency

Wheat, Pennsylvania, 1943

Image, Source: digital file from original transparency

Old house and fruit stand, Houston, Texas, May 1943

Image, Source: digital file from original transparency

Farmland in Catskill country, New York State, June 1943

Image, Source: digital file from original slide

Work horses near Junction City, Kansas, 1942 or 1943

Image, Source: digital file from original slide

Grocery store on Route 74, Ohio, 1942 or 1943

Image, Source: digital file from original transparency

Sulphur vat sixty feet high, Freeport Sulphur Co., Hoskins Mound, Texas, May 1943

Image, Source: digital file from original slide


Photos by John Vachon (Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Collection, Library of Congress)

9 comments:

TC said...

For those whose appetite for Vachon's work has been whetted by these posts: see also: Scale: John Vachon

and

Something Occurring by the Side of a Road.

TC said...

...and for those who may wonder what is implied by the somewhat mysterious title of this post, perhaps it should be said that the post originally had a text, which latterly disappeared because it seemed to be overdetermining the photos... and too because, currently, for yours truly, words, curiously enough, just don't do the trick.

At any rate: "Junction" was meant to refer not only to a point in space, a little town in Kansas, but perhaps also to a point in time, keeping in mind that this colour work of 1942-1943 is some of the last work in the FSA files; over the five years or so in which John Vachon had been traveling around the country taking pictures, a great deal had changed, and a great deal more was changing still, and yet to change.

Elmo St. Rose said...

in the vast flat
of the great plains
a steeple in the
distance does
add to the sense
of belief

curtisroberts said...

Having just returned home from a long day on the road (the day also being the day before school begins and all the tricky things that entails), this was a wonderful coda to the previous Vachon posts. I'll be sorting over the images in my mind again when I try to go to sleep, but what really impresses me is the harmony in the photos between the natural and the man-made elements in each of the shots. Having spent a lot of time in Manhattan recently, where everything seems permanently disconnected and forced apart, the world Vachon depicts here seems natural, human and navigable.

TC said...

Many thanks, Curtis and Elmo.

Objective distance, sensed belief, harmony with nature, human navigability -- yes, all these qualities and characteristics come into play in these scenes and views, as well of course as in the world that is their subject and the artist who made them.

Right now caught up here in the quaking throes of having to hire "professionals" -- contractors, surgeons -- for extremely complicated and serious life-emergency work we can neither understand nor afford... so if there were ever a time to hope to find such virtues as those listed above coming into play... ah, yes, belief would be good. Praying unfortunately not an option. And it did occur to me to wonder whether that Junction City church, like so many buildings in that area at that time, had not been abandoned...

Which reminds, on the subject of belief, and human connection, there's one set of Vachon photos I've forgotten to mention -- the poignant record of his visit to the San Augustin, Texas rural school in "Meant to be..."

STEPHEN RATCLIFFE said...

Tom,

Those clouds above Junction City church, then work horses, the saturated color of these photos against stark black and white of the previous ones -- what remarkable stuff. And yes, being the father of a five year old boy made those other pictures (boy sitting beside tracks, woman sitting in car w/ small child waiting for husband) carry great emotional weight ("heartbreaking," as they say). . . .

9.7

light coming into fog against invisible
ridge, red-tailed hawk calling in right
foreground, no sound of wave in channel

interval upon which plane is
built, other continuous

influences, position of line,
consideration of number

silver of sunlight reflected in channel,
wingspan of cormorant flapping above it

STEPHEN RATCLIFFE said...

Tom,

Something about looking at the look of that white church in the field in the light. . . .


9.9

first grey light in sky above blackness
of ridge, silver of planet above branch
in foreground, sound of wave in channel

“happy as I could be in real
life,” to be working in

the look that looks in light,
appearing, as a looking

grey-white of fog reflected in channel,
line of pelicans flapping toward point

Marylinn Kelly said...

The astonishing clarity of the color...I didn't know the technology was so sophisticated then, based on watery pictures in family albums. As you are in the throes of trusting so much to outsiders, I will hold a thought of enduring virtues and a strong center.

I will spend more time taking in the Victorian survivor from "Old house and fruit stand."

TC said...

Yes, Marylinn, thank you for that -- "throes" is the right word. But any trust, here, now, would have to be based more on hope than on belief; and at the moment, even hope is intermittent at best, not easy to find and impossible to hold on to for long...

But on the other hand, ah, Kodachrome.

"Those clouds above Junction City church, then work horses, the saturated color of these photos against stark black and white..."

"...the look of that white church in the field in the light..."

"The astonishing clarity of the color..."

Kodachrome, as the FSA work shows, is unsurpassed for its richness, depth and accuracy of colour, and its longevity when stored in darkness is legendary; thus the FSA colour work done in the early 1940s (Kodachrome was introduced in 1935) retains an amazing fidelity.

It seems the Kodachrome supply was limited, most of the colour stock going to direct wartime/propaganda uses; some of the FSA photographers (e.g. Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans, Ben Shahn) disdained it, others used it occasionally, a few were always eager to get their hands on it, and exploited it to the hilt: to my mind, the colour work of Russell Lee, Jack Delano and John Vachon particularly stands out.

Kodachrome was put out of business by digital and finally stopped production last year. Cheap, easy, fast, light and ordinary, the new digital, the new world.