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Monday, 6 September 2010

John Vachon: Signs and Wonders


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http://memory.loc.gov/service/pnp/cph/3c20000/3c29000/3c29900/3c29920v.jpg

Sign in beer parlor window, Sisseton, South Dakota, September 1939

Image, Source: digital file from intermediary roll film

Restaurant sign, Omaha, Nebraska, November 1938

Image, Source: digital file from intermediary roll film

Religious sign, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 1939

Image, Source: digital file from intermediary roll film

Children's drawings on wall, Washington, D.C., April 1937

Image, Source: digital file from intermediary roll film

Movie theatre, Washington, D.C., April 1937

Image, Source: digital file from intermediary roll film

Movie poster, Washington, D.C., April 1937

Image, Source: digital file from intermediary roll film

Tattered billboard, Minneapolis, September 1939

Image, Source: digital file from intermediary roll film

Billboard, Woodbine, Iowa, May 1940

Image, Source: digital file from intermediary roll film

Image, Source: digital file from intermediary roll film

Image, Source: digital file from intermediary roll film

Advertising near Mansfield, Ohio, July 1941

Image, Source: digital file from intermediary roll film

Image, Source: digital file from intermediary roll film

Sign painters, Ames, Iowa, May 1940

Image, Source: digital file from intermediary roll film

Signboard, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, September 1939

Image, Source: digital file from intermediary roll film

Washington, D.C., April 1937

Image, Source: digital file from intermediary roll film

National Association of Manufacturers signboard, Dubuque, Iowa, April 1940

Image, Source: digital file from intermediary roll film

Covington, Kentucky, street corner, 3:33 p.m., September 1939

Image, Source: digital file from intermediary roll film

Sign, October 1940

Image, Source: digital file from intermediary roll film

Sign on US 41, Kenosha County, Wisconsin, July 1941

Image, Source: digital file from intermediary roll film

Sign, late summer 1941

Image, Source: digital file from intermediary roll film

Small town main street, late summer 1941


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

8 comments:

curtisroberts said...

Each of these images is, as they say, more remarkable than the next. Each of them is also worth 10,000 words.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

A post full of so many wonders ... the peeling billboards have a dreamlike, subliminal quality to them but all the images are, as Curtis notes, are remarkable.

The restaurant "King Hitler" sign from 1938 is an interesting glimpse into a narrow slice of time (like the peeling billboards, now that I think of it). As such, I'm not sure exactly its implications. Is "King Hitler" satirical a la Spike Jones "Der Fuhrer's Face" or is it something darker?

STEPHEN RATCLIFFE said...

Tom,

Cheers on Labor Day. Great pictures, the captions are like a poem (nothing else need be said) --

Sign in beer parlor window
Restaurant sign
Religious sign
Children's drawings on wall,

Movie theater
Movie poster
Tattered billboard
Billboard

Advertising
Sign painters,
Signboard
Washington, D.C.

Signboard,
Street corner
Sign
Sign

Sign
Small town main street


Meanwhile, this ---


9.6

blinding silver edge of sun above still
shadowed ridge, red-tailed hawk calling
in foreground, sound of wave in channel

experienced in such way that
change, as such nothing

“may be” here that is, often
looked at, out-of-focus

cloudless blue sky reflected in channel,
shadowed green slope of ridge across it

Ed Baker said...

here is a line from John Meade's Woman:

"You married me to get even with that other woman -- now you're going to pay!"

I can ALMOST remember the name of that movie theater... it was up on Pennsylvania Avenue, S.E.

take the street car up * th Street to Penn. Ave... the movie was in that block..

on Saturday's they put a piece of tape on the glass under it .25 cents
over it .50 cents.

6 cartoon
two features
comings attractions
a live magic act and ticket-stub drawings


OHHHH It was

The Penn Theater... I think

neat photos... would that I could blow them up and
"get into" the details so sharp...

TC said...

Thanks everyone.

Don, I think it's satirical.

On the words vs pictures relative value question, Arthur Rothstein's daughter, Eve Roth Lindsay, cites his view of the matter here.

TC said...

By the by, it should be understood that the selection and ordering of images in this and in the adjacent photo posts is to be blamed neither on the photographer John Vachon nor on the archivists charged with tending the Library of Congress collection of some 160,000 FSA/OWI black & white images (not to speak of the much smaller colour collection). The structures and themes of the posts are not "found" things but the result for better or worse of Beyond the Pale editorial interventions, or rat nibbles, in the massive labyrinthine tunnel-town of the database.

Julia said...

Truly wonders, Tom!
The sing painters are now a lost specie (as well as the jolly smoking couple), incredible job, don't you think?
(How come I missed this post last year? Shame on me!)

TC said...

Glad you liked this, Julia. John Vachon traveled all through the American interior taking pictures, seeking the "heart" of the people and landscapes, and quite often the first revealing evidence that caught his eye in the large and small towns through which he passed was found in the signboards, with their secret clues to the hidden meanings of place.