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Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Arthur Rothstein: Dry Land Grazing (Idaho, 1936)

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Chuck wagon in which part of family of fourteen lived, Oneida County, Idaho
: photo by Arthur Rothstein, May 1936

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Farm on grazing project, Oneida County, Idaho: photo by Arthur Rothstein, May 1936

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Children of submarginal farmer, Oneida County, Idaho: photo by Arthur Rothstein, May 1936

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Children of family living on grazing land project, Oneida County, Idaho: photo by Arthur Rothstein, May 1936

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Schoolhouse in isolated area, Oneida County, Idaho: photo by Arthur Rothstein, May 1936

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Interior of schoolhouse in submarginal area, Oneida County, Idaho: photo by Arthur Rothstein, May 1936

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Son of sheep rancher, Oneida County, Idaho: photo by Arthur Rothstein, May 1936

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Daughter of farmer living in Resettlement Administration purchase area, Oneida County, Idaho: photo by Arthur Rothstein, May 1936

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Daughter of sheep rancher, Oneida County, Idaho grazing project: photo by Arthur Rothstein, May 1936

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Derrick for stacking hay, Oneida County, Idaho: photo by Arthur Rothstein, May 1936

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Sheep rancher, Oneida County, Idaho: photo by Arthur Rothstein, May 1936

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Dry, sandy soil makes farming impossible, Oneida County, Idaho grazing project: photo by Arthur Rothstein, May 1936

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Sheep on submarginal farm, Oneida County, Idaho grazing project: photo by Arthur Rothstein, May 1936

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Resettlement Administration work camp, Oneida County, Idaho: photo by Arthur Rothstein, May 1936


Photos by Arthur Rothstein for U.S. Resettlement Administration (Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Collection, Library of Congress)

5 comments:

Hazen said...

Submarginal. The word stays in the mind. It has an eerie sort of resonance (which I’m sure you intended) with our situation today on this beautiful dust-mote of a world, the only one we’ll ever have.

Words like resettlement administration signify a bureaucratic response: an institution arises to deal with a recurring crisis, one that becomes permanent or long term. Sheep grazing, of course, contributed to the desertification. Civilization presents us with a Gordian knot of a problem, anytime.

That child holding the puppies, and her gesture of brushing back her hair, looking out at us across time . . .

Nin Andrews said...

I love these old photographs.
And where the water is, the people went. . . or so one would think.

Suzanne is now in the middle of the desert on the Somalia border--where it is 105 plus.
She says the people who live there have always lived there, but there is no water, no reason to be there, at least not according to our logic. It's amazing to think of all the ways people live on this "beautiful dust-mote" and often in the dust.

STEPHEN RATCLIFFE said...

Tom,

Yes, these people (now gone) living on this "beautiful dust mote," "looking out at us across time". . .

3.7

light coming into sky above black plane
of ridge, song sparrow calling in field
in foreground, wave sounding in channel

that would have taken, come
back at least changed

being, as something that is
here, could appear as

silver of sunlight reflected in channel,
cloudless blue sky to the left of point

vazambam (Vassilis Zambaras) said...

When I first saw #4, I thought it was a young pregnant mother holding her first child, which--if it were the case--would make this photo even more poignant i.e., the statuesque young woman with child on the margin of the world expecting yet another.

TC said...

Aching poverty, suffering and deprivation, a barren and arid, windswept land.

And yet, teeming with life. That miracle.

Vassilis, I pondered Arthur Rothstein's caption on #4 at length, decided to over-rule him, and in an early draft titled the photo "Mother and child".

But I hate to change a photographer's caption when there's any room for doubt.

So I went back again through all the photos in this substantial file, and it struck me that, in the family of fourteen, this may be big sister with little sister. Big sister herself big with child?

Then again Rothstein may simply have mis-captioned. If so he should be forgiven that small mistake. He got so many other things right. This file is a permanent testament to the historical movement of a persistent and resilient people out onto the harsh territory of the high plains under extremely difficult circumstances. The trials and pains can only be imagined. The courage is evident.