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Monday, 6 September 2010

John Vachon: In the Heartland: Shadow and Maze


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File:Livestock chicago 1947.jpg
The maze of livestock pens and walkways at the Union Stock Yards, Chicago, July 1941

Image, Source: digital file from intermediary roll film

Under the Elevated tracks, Chicago, July 1941

Image, Source: digital file from intermediary roll film

Under the Elevated tracks, Chicago, July 1941

Image, Source: digital file from intermediary roll film

Chicago, Illinois, July 1941

Image, Source: digital file from intermediary roll film

Chicago, Illinois, July 1941

Image, Source: digital file from intermediary roll film

Policemen, Chicago, July 1941

Image, Source: digital file from intermediary roll film

Chicago, July 1941

File:Under the elevated railway, Chicago, Illinois fsa8a06711u.jpg

Under the Elevated tracks, Chicago, July 1940


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

12 comments:

Julia said...

I love picture Nº 4!
El hombre y la toma de agua parecen tener el mismo gesto.

TC said...

Julia,

Maravillosas que ver eso. El hombre y el enchufe del fuego (o toma de agua?) tiene el mismo lenguaje del cuerpo, sí. (Y yo simpatizaba con los dos.)

Julia said...

Exacto, yo también!

curtisroberts said...

This really shows how a title can organize a collection of related but disparate images into singular, powerful and profound expression.

John B-R said...

Thanks for introducing me to Vachon's work.

The 1st phot says pretty much everything.

TC said...

Yes it does, John. I grew up smelling those animal remains. There is indeed a member of my family in one of the photos on this post. In fact the degree of karmic involvement I feel with these images, which date from the moment of my emergence upon the scene in this city built on animal slaughter, creates a kind of existential nausea in my soul, reminding me that nothing good could possibly ever come from such a place.

Julia said...

Perhaps you like a little story about an argentinian family visiting one of your cities in 1946.

TC said...

Very nice, Julia. And a good choice among American cities to visit. The air is better, for one thing.

Julia said...

Thank you, Tom. Your comment there was very funny :-)

Elmo St. Rose said...

biological thickness,
the smell of it
usually tells the most,

Vachon as presented by
TC, with his first person
experience involved in
the human gathering, it's
sights and it's odors

there was a poem by Neruda
about living in the rarefied
air, that so many have tried
to do, apart from human grit,
perhaps fearful idealists,
"falling over dead in the snow"
the cold and the snow self
created

inhale

STEPHEN RATCLIFFE said...

Tom,

In Tintin in America (1945) -- the first Tintin book, his first emergence on the scene -- he comes to Chicago (no mention of the Union Stark Yards there, but lots and lots of Al Capone types). Whatever happened to that maze of pens and walkways, memorialized here?

9.8

grey whiteness of fog against invisible
ridge, shadowed green of leaf on branch
in foreground, sound of wave in channel

glance at landscape, confirm
mass and tonal contrast

memorized and applied, which
picture is, which being

grey-white of fog against top of ridge,
circular green pine on tip of sandspit

TC said...

Elmo,

Seldom has air been less rarefied.

Yes, inhaling was always an issue, at least for the "sensitive".


Steve,

Oh my, "Stark Yards," the apt typo of the millennium.

Since you ask...the Union Stock Yards, where millions of animals were slaughtered over a century or so of operation, were closed and torn down in 1971.

In my youth I worked periodically at the International Amphitheatre, adjacent to the Yards, where the stench of animal blood was overwhelming, sick-making, especially on hot nights in late summer. Then warm winds from the south carried the overpowering smell all the way out to the West Side, where I lived. It was a part of life. Death, that is, was a part of life. The part of life upon which the city had been founded. "Hog-butcher to the world," etc.

All that adrenalized terror, all that toxic fear, all that slaughter, source of the gimcrack glory of that Toddlin' Town.

Swift, Armour, etc. were among the world's first truly global companies. American History. The mechanized stockyards death process with its killing wheel and conveyors provided inspiration for the automobile assembly line. Then there was the business end of the game. Hedging transactions by the stockyard companies were instrumental to the establishment and growth of the commodity exchanges and futures markets that made Chicago "great". On another youthful job as a "runner" at the Board of Trade I watched the stats of this game go up minute by minute on a big manually-operated scoreboard.

There was a noxious body of water, the South Fork of the Chicago River, in which the gaseous organic-waste remnants of the Yards gathered as run-off. Bubbly Creek, it was called, a River of Decomposition. It still bubbles to this day, long after all those snuffed-out animal lives have turned into other kinds of waste in human cemeteries.

Inhaling was definitely an issue.

My home town.

The first thoughts that come to mind, for me, are Dachau, Belsen, Auschwitz, when I look at images like this one.