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Saturday, 8 January 2011

Accidents (Harry M. Rhoads)


File:Dead Woman On Floor With Chair And Spittoon.jpg

Dead woman on floor with chair and spittoon, Denver, Colorado
: photo by Harry M. Rhoads, c. 1920 (Library of Congress)

"Crowds of people moved through the streets with a dream-like violence."

-- Nathanael West


manik sharma said...

these images make me recall a dialogue from the movie the shawshank redemption..."the world went and got itself into a damn hurry"....i guess accidents are some violence that manages to escape basements or minds....the sad part being that they are coincidences...all of a way i guess....

TC said...


Cars can be lethal, to those in cars and those not in cars.

The phenomenon of the traffic accident as spectacle for gaping and gawking onlookers, as a kind of cultural indicator, bespeaks a certain kind of society.

Living here as we do on the very busy freeway feeder avenue we have seen four traffic fatalities involving pedestrians in the immediate vicinity of our domicile, one of these involving our next door neighbour, hit and killed by a car while attempting to cross the street on his way home from the grocery store.

As he and his sundry purchases lay scattered in pieces in the crosswalk, a gaggle of curiosity seekers quickly gathered.

TC said...

(I suppose, too, that I thought the Nat West quote imparted to these scenes a certain George Romero-zombie quality of deep unspoken social disturbance, a feeling of dangerous sleepwalking, but without the clarity of dreaming...)

Anonymous said...

Reading this dialogue after viewing the Rhoads photos displayed, reading about Rhoads, seeing other examples of his work and trying to figure out his artistic and journalistic intentions, and nearly having several accidents this morning on our icy, badly maintained roads, is both interesting and confusing. I guess I'll go with Tom re "the phenomenon of the traffic accident as spectacle for gaping and gawking onlookers, as a kind of cultural indicator, bespeaks a certain kind of society" and with Manik regarding "accidents are some violence that manages to escape basements or minds". We live on a road that is very busy on weekday mornings. What happens to people when they get behind the wheel of a car never ceases to amaze me. I've often seen expressions of pure murder on people's faces. And, as is the habit of most residents of places, I'd say that the people around Philadelphia are the worst examples of this behavior I've ever seen, actually surpassing the drivers of Massachusetts and, though underachieving in most other ways, Rhode Island. Rhoads is really, really interesting, though, and previously unknown to me. What a fascinating guy and career.

John B-R said...

The world’s first road traffic death involving a motor vehicle is alleged to have occurred on 31 August 1869. An Irish scientist Mary Ward died when she fell out of her cousins' steam car and was run over by it. (Wikipedia) I read somewhere that the car was going 4.5 mph, which is just a little over walking speed.

Wikipedia again: Worldwide it was estimated in 2004 that 1.2 million people were killed (2.2% of all deaths) and 50 million more were injured in motor vehicle collisions. India leads with 105,000 traffic deaths in a year, compared with over 96,000 in China. This makes motor vehicle collisions the leading cause of injury death among children worldwide 10 – 19 years old (260,000 children die a year, 10 million are injured) and the sixth leading preventable cause of death in the United States (45,800 people died and 2.4 million were injured in 2005). In Canada they are the cause of 48% of severe injuries.

As far as those curiosity-seekers are concerned, I think it would be a lot worse for all of us if people got killed and lay in the rod and no one stopped to look.

TC said...

Well, I really don't take myself as an example of anything, but the last couple of times (one is too many) I've found myself a helpless pedestrian lying helplessly on American pavement, sure enough there have been interested passersby gaping, but nary a Good Sam. And too, were I to become road kill, I'd prefer that anyone in the area sought some other form of entertainment. Well, the movies have been pretty lousy lately, but still.

(This puts me in mind of, of all things, the title of a poetry book: Autogeddon.)

TC said...

The issue of Schadenfreude, or there-but-for-the-grace-of-God, I guess I've been trying to say, sprang out at me like a cartoon viper from Rhoads' vehicle collision portfolio.

(Not that it was his only subject, as, it seems, happily enough, Curtis has now discovered.)

To deny that other people's pain is a common implicitly socially approved entertainment medium is to avoid looking the spectators in these photos in their interested eyes.

(World, you can run me over with a steam car any time you like, said Roadrunner.)

Ed Baker said...

if/when both thumbs are on the cell-phone
who is steering the car?

twice this past week
I struck a car on it s hood
with my cane

both times a young woman on her cell phone
making a right turn on red light
without stopping was she tweeting... whatever that is

almost kilt me!

good thing that I am a quick REACTIONARY
do not hesitate to react

what %-age of accidents are caused by these (&%$**)ing Morons!

those hands-free phones ain't a much better solution

they should be banned from driving! or worts!!

TC said...

They should indeed be banned from worts, or warts, or worse, and the worst is doubtless still to come. It's more orts for the sports, for sure and simple.

Ah, Ed, don't get me going. It's bad enough to get run over by a car, but I am now three weeks out of commission from having been run over by an anti-vehicle spike; which, when you stop and think about it, is pretty funny, as I have not owned a vehicle since 1968.

(And as far as I am concerned, that was much too recently.)

(And as you mention text appeal, yes, another cultural indicator for sure, as if more were required.)

Ed Baker said...

I guess
at this stage
we are both


how I miss those lead-gasoline fumes
coming out of that TEXACO or ESSO pump

18-24 cents a gallon!

same price as a pack of Lucky Strikes

actually that was the first Langyouage poem:


Anonymous said...

Autogeddon -- Amazing.

Ed's comments re texting and phones -- so very scary. The hands-free "solution" doesn't really work very well. Listening to the radio, which I love to do, strikes me as already too irresponsible. You should keep whacking away with your cane.

Tom's accident would indeed be funny (it's the way you describe it that makes it so) if it weren't so painful to hear about.

Rhoads' work is really, really interesting. This is a remarkable, unique set of images and part of what seems like a large, varied body of work -- the product of a distinctive, discernible eye and attitude. When I saw these, the first other image that came to mind was Andy Warhol's Green Car Crash, which attracted so much attention a year or two ago when it was auctioned for an insanely high price. It is very powerful, of course, but a younger relative of these works.

Ed Baker said...

HEY Curtis

you THIK
that that's bad

I just drove my new 1976 Ford F-150
up to the Target store to buy a new pair of sweat pants...

all that was on the wrack were these "things" like
silky baggy fancy pans with stripes going down the sides..

so I asked the lady

"where's the sweat pants?

she said: "these are them?"

I said

"NOOOOOO! The REAL ONES. Like Hanbes, or Champion. These are 'jive-ass-pants' and are ALL too large
..just larges and xtra larges"

she said

"never heard of Champion sweats. And, we don' carry the small or the medium any longer


so I went over to the children's department...
then to the lady's sports apparel department

when I got back to the parking lot
I found that two of my bald tires had been slashed...

& the six-pack of buddha-beer on the front seat had been stolen...

Anonymous said...

Ed, your Target anecdote is so funny up until the end and so believable. (We have a new Target in our area and it's been my first experience with the store, which has so far been very pleasant. But if you want to buy normal sweatpants, I share your view that they should be easily available.) Ever since my Toyota Corolla had sugar added to its gas tank by some creep in Manhattan in the late 1970s and a later Toyota, when stolen from the street, elicited the following comment from the local police: "What did you expect, you parked on the street?", nothing has surprised me in this area. Tom's right -- "cars can be lethal, to those in cars and those not in cars". I'm sorry about the tires and sorry also about the beer. Buddha beer?