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Monday, 8 July 2013

Ben Shahn: Circleville, Ohio, Summer 1938 / William Blake: The Divine Image


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Dwellers in Hooverville, Circleville, Ohio: photo by Ben Shahn (1898-1969), Summer 1938, for U.S. Farm Security Administration

Circleville, county seat of Pickaway County. Average small Ohio city, depending upon surrounding rich farmlands for its livelihood. Because of its non-industrial surroundings, retains much of old-time flavor. Outstanding industries: Eshelman's Feed Mill. Employs 150-200 men the year 'round. Pay averages about eighty-five cents an hour. Container Corporation of America makes paper out of straw, can absorb by-product of all neighboring farms. In addition, a number of canneries and feed mills. During depression many farms of the district were foreclosed. People who lost homes naturally gravitated toward the town. A town of its character is unable to house new influx of population. Consequently there sprang up around it an extensive Hooverville. Circleville got its name through having been built in a circle as a better protection against the Indians. (Ben Shahn's FSA general caption for his 1938 Circleville portfolio)


William Blake: The Divine Image




William Blake's plate of The Divine Image, from Songs of Innocence, 1789 (Library of Congress/William Blake Archive)



To Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
All pray in their distress;
And to these virtues of delight
Return their thankfulness.

For Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
Is God, our father dear,
And Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
Is Man, his child and care.

For Mercy has a human heart,
Pity a human face,
And Love, the human form divine,
And Peace, the human dress.

Then every man, of every clime,
That prays in his distress,
Prays to the human form divine,
Love, Mercy, Pity, Peace.

And all must love the human form,
In heathen, Turk, or Jew;
Where Mercy, Love, and Pity dwell
   There God is dwelling too.

William Blake: The Divine Image, from Songs of Innocence, 1789
'And God said: Let us make man in our image': Genesis I.26 (King James Version)



Ex-farmer now on W.P.A. (Work Projects Administration), central Ohio

Dwellers in Hooverville, Circleville, Ohio


Dwellers in Circleville's "Hooverville," central Ohio (see general caption)

Dwellers in Hooverville, Circleville, Ohio


Dwellers in Circleville's "Hooverville," central Ohio (see general caption)

Dweller in Hooverville, Circleville, Ohio


[Untitled photo, possibly related to: Dwellers in Circleville's "Hooverville," central Ohio (see general caption)]


Hooverville, Circleville, Ohio

Ex-farmer and child, now on W.P.A. (Work Projects Administration), central Ohio


Dwellers in Hooverville, Circleville, Ohio

Ex-farmer now on W.P.A. (Work Projects Administration), central Ohio


Dwellers in Hooverville, Circleville, Ohio


William A. Swift, once a farmer, now a resident of Circleville's "Hooverville." When he returned from the war he went West. "Made awful good money jobbin' around."


William A. Swift, dweller in Hooverville, Circleville, Ohio



Street scene, Circleville

Street scene in central Ohio


Street scene, Circleville

Street scene, Circleville, Ohio (see general caption)

Street scene, Circleville


Street scene, Circleville, Ohio (see general caption)

Street scene, Circleville

Street scene, Circleville, Ohio (see general caption)


Street scene, Circleville

Street scene, Circleville, Ohio (see general caption)

Street scene, Circleville

Street scene, Circleville, Ohio (see general caption)

Street scene, Circleville

Two boys standing in front of candy store window, street scene, Circleville, Ohio (see general caption)


Two boys standing in front of candy store window, Circleville


Main and Court Streets, Circleville, Ohio (see general caption)

Main and Court Streets, Circleville

Main and Court Streets, Circleville, Ohio (see general caption)


Main and Court Streets, Circleville

Main and Court Streets, Circleville, Ohio (see general caption)

Main and Court Streets, Circleville

Main and Court Streets, Circleville, Ohio (see general caption)

Main and Court Streets, Circleville


Main and Court Streets, Circleville, Ohio (see general caption)

Main and Court Streets, Circleville




Main and Court Streets, Circleville


Main and Court Streets, Circleville, Ohio (see general caption)


Main and Court Streets, Circleville


Main and Court Streets, Circleville, Ohio (see general caption)

Main and Court Streets, Circleville


Doctor's office, Main and Court Streets, Circleville, Ohio (see general caption)


Doctor's office, Main and Court Streets, Circleville


Courthouse, Circleville, Ohio

Courthouse, Circleville

Street scene in central Ohio

 

Street scene, Circleville

Wonder Bar, hot spot of Circleville, Ohio

Wonder Bar, hot spot of Circleville

Wonder Bar, hot spot of Circleville, Ohio (see general caption)


Wonder Bar, hot spot of Circleville

Wonder Bar, hot spot in Circleville, Ohio (see general caption)

Wonder Bar, hot spot of Circleville

Image, Source: digital file from original neg.

Wonder Bar, hot spot of Circleville

Circus poster, Circleville, Ohio

Circus poster, Circleville

Environs of Circleville, Ohio (see general caption)


Environs of Circleville

Stoves, parts for all stoves, near Circleville, Ohio (see general caption)

Stoves, parts for all stoves, near Circleville

Environs of Circleville, Ohio (see general caption)

Environs of Circleville

Hall of Independent Odd Fellows, Circleville (see general caption)

Hall of Independent Odd Fellows, Circleville

Sign on outskirts of Circleville, Ohio (see general caption)


Sign on outskirts of Circleville

Environs of Circleville, Ohio (see general caption)

Environs of Circleville


Hall of Independent Odd Fellows, Circleville (see general caption)


Hall of Independent Odd Fellows, Circleville

Sign on outskirts of Circleville, Ohio (see general caption)


Sign on outskirts of Circleville

Railroad station of Circleville, Ohio (see general caption)

Railroad station, Circleville


Photos by Ben Shahn (1898-1969), Summer 1938, for Farm Security Administration (Library of Congress)

13 comments:

STEPHEN RATCLIFFE said...

Tom,

"And all must love the human form"

"Apologetic for toothlessness, explained that last year doctor advised pulling all of his (perfectly) good tooth because of headaches. Headaches remain."


7.8

light coming into fog against invisible
top of ridge, birds calling on branches
in foreground, wave sounding in channel

way which in all directions,
place with respect to

setting, following equation,
space equal to moment

grey white fog against invisible ridge,
cormorant flapping across toward point

TC said...

Steve,

The human form divine.

Those FSA files with the original caption tabs pasted on the print help keep it real -- with the historical materialist realist Ben Shahn, it seemed a good idea to retain at least one of those files, documentary evidence of a sort.

Remembering William A. Swift, dweller in Hooverville, Circleville, Ohio.

TC said...

Ben Shahn views Circleville -- and mid-America -- from a distance.

He was born to a family of Jewish craftsmen in Lithuania, then occupied by the Russian Empire. When his father’s anti-czarist activities led to exile in Siberia in 1902. the family moved some 70 km away to a shtetl. Four years later Shahn's father fled Siberia; he ended up in the US, working as a carpenter in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, where the family joined him.

At 14, Shahn apprenticed himself to an uncle who had a lithograph business. It was in the lithograph shop that he first developed an interest in art, particularly in lettering and calligraphy.

In night school art classes he developed the linear bias of a draughtsman, a bias which, like the heat of his political conscience, greatly affected his later work in painting and photography.

In his twenties, he spent nearly three years in Europe and North Africa. By the time he returned, he had dedicated himself to art, and to social commitment.

“I hate injustice,” he said. “I guess that’s about the only thing I really do hate and I will go on hunting it all my life.”

For a while, in his early years as a painter, Shahn shared a Manhattan studio with the photographer Walker Evans. In 1933, when Shahn's younger brother paid off a wager with a Leica camera, the painter turned to Evans for instruction in its use. Shahn recalled that the first lesson was delivered as Evans dashed out the door on his way to a photographic assignment and consisted of the shouted instruction, "f9 for the bright side of the street, f4.5 for the shady side!" Shahn never attempted to master the meticulous, view-camera approach Evans favored. He thought of his compact 35-mm Leica with right-angle viewfinder -- a device that permitted the photographer to face in one direction while pointing the camera in another -- as a kind of mechanical sketchpad.

In the first Circleville "Street Scene" here (following the eight "Hooverville" shots), the shop window reflection behind the two figures contains a self portrait of the photographer -- Shahn holding his Leica. with right-angle viewfinder.

Unknown said...

Circleville -- how sweet. What a sweet name

What's left to do with America?

Look at it!

Of course!

You are right again.


Harris

TC said...

"Circleville got its name through having been built in a circle as a better protection against the Indians."

Wooden Boy said...

The piano player in the Wonder Bar with that curious painted scene beside him and the sleeping fan above.

Shahn is praying to the human form divine as every historical materialist realist must.

I've loved his graphic work a long time. Some nice examples here.


Unknown said...

Everyone forgot to keep building in circles, to protect against the abundance of varmints out there, or was it too late, yes, it was way too late. They were already part of the circle, I can see 'em, I can see some of them in the pictures now that I look again.

Dalriada said...


A Divine Image

Cruelty has a Human Heart
And Jealousy a Human Face
Terror the Human Form Divine
And Secrecy, the Human Dress

The Human Dress, is forged Iron
The Human Form, a fiery Forge.
The Human Face, a Furnace seal'd
The Human Heart, its hungry Gorge.


By William Blake


I have to wonder what happened in the interim

De Villo Sloan said...

Ben Shahn's incredible photos here have relevance to the larger epochal saga of North America - like from the perspective of Olson.

Circleville (very well known in US archaeology) was built on top of & around a spectacular complex of Native American burial mounds & earthworks. These were made by people of the Hopewell Culture (aka the legendary Moundbuilders) & their civilization for unknown reasons was pretty well finished by 500 AD.

A former Circleville resident, Caleb Atwater, wrote "A Description of the Antiquities in the Western
Country" (1820) which documents the earthworks & artifacts & also proposes some bizarre theories claiming Indians couldn't have been responsible for creating a sophisticated culture.

The "settlers" could just not get their minds around the idea that "savage Indians" were capable of producing anything close to the products of Europe.

This mindset accompanied Western expansion. When something challenged it - like Circleville - the tendency was to flatten it keep moving forward.

Hazen said...

"Love Mercy Pity Peace." Like a mantra. These Ben Shahn photographs are exceptional, and all of them new to me.

manik sharma said...

In the divine image,man is unrecognizable..

TC said...

Many thanks to all for the great comments. Meditating in the dark upon which, these past few nights, has led me here.

Unknown said...

Circleville was built within the circular earthworks of a mound, I guess because the founding fathers thought it'd be cool! As the town grew, the mounds became less important to them, so they flattened any earthworks that got in their way. The town square was still a circle with the courthouse directly in the center of it. As time passed, the circle configuration got in the way of efficient traffic management, so by early in the 19th century, even it was done away with. Now all that's left of the circle is in the town's name.