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Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Red Shuttleworth: One Winter Night in York, Nebraska / John Vachon: Nebraska


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Image, Source: digital file from intermediary roll film

Car belonging to "white spot" enthusiast ("...the white spot of the nation, no luxury tax, no bonded debt, highways all paid for..."), Omaha, Nebraska, November 1938



Blizzard outside: cars and semis ditched
upside down and sideways, puzzled drivers...
truckers with bloodied noses with magenta flares...
visibility about as far as the toss of a cheeseburger.

My motel has a pool.  Pink ceiling insulation
is falling into the antiseptic-stench water.
Marbled-fat belly and back leg cellulite,
a girl in an aqua bikini watches me dogpaddle.
I take her for junior at some Omaha high school.
A woman's voice calls to her, Ramona,
goddamnit, don't shuffle when you walk:
it ain't too Hollywood-appealing, girl.

A desk clerk blares over the PA system,
Would the owner of the Broken R stock trailer
please come to the front desk for loose cows.
At a poolside table, two college basketball players
are finishing off a greasy paper bowl of onion rings.
One says to the other, I was born this fucking way,
but when I get back home to Louisville,
I'm gonna see a doctor and have my knees lowered.
Their coach, a bare-branch skinny white guy
walks by and the players wave and greet him,
Hey, Lunchbox-Head-Motherfucker,
this motel don't be a promise of a walk
through sex-land.  The coach flips them off.

A lawman with acne, fresh from the law academy,
walks around the pool, holds tight to a Styrofoam cup,
You folks sure none of you're from the Broken R?
If one of your Charolais gets out onto the interstate,
and if someone gets killed while driving into it,
there's gonna be real trouble... if you know what I mean.
The kid-lawman stops, watches me, You can't swim!
You're the kinda dumb shit who doesn't give a shit.

Blizzard outside.  My motel room's rug is thin,
scraped down to cement near the door and the heater.
Phone lines are down.  Shelter is basically shelter.
There's a bar across the street that's closed tight.
There's crash-and-bang from the room next door,
then sobs from some woman, then laughter.
My room is poolside and I open the sliding door.
More pink ceiling insulation has fallen into the pool.
Ramona, the chunky high school girl, is dancing
topless on the pool's diving board to Margaritaville.
Jimmy Buffet's voice is metallic on the PA system.
The lawman steps into the pool area, looks around,
shakes his head, Nebraska... the Good Life.


Red Shuttleworth: One Winter Night in York, Nebraska, from Poet Red Shuttleworth, 16 February 2012

 

Mildred Irwin, entertainer in saloon at North Platte, Nebraska. She entertained for twenty years in Omaha before coming to North Platte

Mildred Irwin, entertainer in saloon at North Platte, Nebraska. She entertained for twenty years in Omaha before coming to North Platte, October 1938

Men in booths. North Platte, Nebraska. Saloon

Men in booths, North Platte, Nebraska saloon, October 1938

Farmer and old cowboy in North Platte, Nebraska, saloon

Man and old cowboy, North Platte, Nebraska saloon, October 1938

Farmer and ex-cowboy drinking beer in North Platte, Nebraska, saloon

 Farmer and ex-cowboy drinking beer in North Platte, Nebraska saloon, October 1938

Man and girl at the bar. Saloon in North Platte, Nebraska

Man and girl at the bar, saloon in North Platte, Nebraska, October 1938

Folk art in North Platte, Nebraska, home of Buffalo Bill

Folk art in North Platte, Nebraska, home of Buffalo Bill, October 1938

Poster, North Platte, Nebraska

Poster, North Platte, Nebraska, October 1938

[Untitled]

Lunch counter, Nebraska, October 1938

Cattle gate, Dawson County, Nebraska

Cattle gate, Dawson County, Nebraska, October 1938

Grazing land, Dawson County, Nebrask

Grazing land, Dawson County, Nebraska, October 1938

House built of bales of hay, Lexington, Nebraska

House built out of bales of hay, Lexington, Nebraska, October 1938

Privy, Lexington, Nebraska

Privy, Lexington, Nebraska, October 1938

Girl playing among tombstones, Lexington, Nebraska

Girl playing among tombstones, Lexington, Nebraska, October 1938

Trailer park, Lexington, Nebraska

Trailer park, Lexington, Nebraska, October 1938

[Untitled]

Untitled [self-portrait], Nebraska, October 1938

Ice cream, Lincoln, Nebraska

Ice cream, Lincoln, Nebraska, October 1938

Railroad depot, Grand Island, Nebraska

Railroad depot, Grand Island, Nebraska, October 1938

Leaning grain elevator, Grand Island, Nebraska

Leaning grain elevator, Grand Island, Nebraska, October 1938

Water tank for sale, York, Nebraska

Water tank for sale, York, Nebraska, October 1938

Image, Source: digital file from intermediary roll film

Half a mile from the Nebraska state line, October 1938


Image, Source: digital file from intermediary roll film

Men picking their teeth, Beatrice, Nebraska, October 1938


Image, Source: digital file from intermediary roll film

Farmer at sorghum mill, Lancaster County, Nebraska, October 1938


Image, Source: digital file from intermediary roll film

Sorghum cane from which syrup will be made, sorghum mill, Lancaster County, Nebraska, October 1938


Image, Source: digital file from intermediary roll film

Farm children walking to one-room schoolhouse with lunch pails, Nebraska, October 1938


Image, Source: digital file from intermediary roll film

Oil tanks, Lincoln, Nebraska, October 1938


Freight car and grain elevators. Omaha, Nebraska

Freight car and grain elevators, Omaha, Nebraska, November 1938


Image, Source: digital file from intermediary roll film

Restaurant sign, Omaha, Nebraska, November 1938


Image, Source: digital file from intermediary roll film

Lower Douglas Street, where unemployed hang out, Omaha, Nebraska, November 1938

Glorified hamburgers, Lincoln, Nebraska

Glorified hamburgers, Lincoln, Nebraska, October 1938


Image, Source: digital file from intermediary roll film

Danger Zone, Omaha, Nebraska, November 1938


Image, Source: digital file from intermediary roll film

 Liquor store, Omaha, Nebraska, November 1938


Image, Source: digital file from intermediary roll film

Front porch, Omaha, Nebraska, October 1938


Image, Source: digital file from intermediary roll film

Lincoln, Nebraska, October 1938


Image, Source: digital file from intermediary roll film

Saturday afternoon, Lincoln, Nebraska, October 1938


Image, Source: digital file from intermediary roll film

Sunday morning, Lincoln, Nebraska, October 1938


Newsstand. Omaha, Nebraska   

Newstand, Omaha, Nebraska, November 1938

Image, Source: digital file from intermediary roll film

Going to back door to ask for handout, Omaha, Nebraska, November 1938

Image, Source: digital file from intermediary roll film

Leaving house from which he failed to get something to eat, Omaha, Nebraska, November 1938

Image, Source: digital file from intermediary roll film

Abandoned farm, Nebraska, November 1938


Image, Source: digital file from intermediary roll film

Storefronts, Wymore, Nebraska, October 1938


Image, Source: digital file from intermediary roll film

Truck carrying poster, Omaha, Nebraska, November 1938


Image, Source: digital file from intermediary roll film

Houses in Italian district, Omaha, Nebraska, November 1938


Image, Source: digital file from intermediary roll film

South Omaha, Nebraska, November 1938


Image, Source: digital file from intermediary roll film

Residential district, Omaha, Nebraska, November 1938


Image, Source: digital file from original neg.

Headquarters of truckdrivers' union, Omaha, Nebraska, November 1938


Image, Source: digital file from original neg.


 Liquor store, Omaha, Nebraska, November 1938


http://memory.loc.gov/service/pnp/fsa/8b14000/8b14200/8b14237v.jpg

Window in rooming house, Omaha, Nebraska, November 1938


http://memory.loc.gov/service/pnp/fsa/8a03000/8a03900/8a03989v.jpg

Saturday afternoon movie crowd, North Platte, Nebraska, October 1938

File:Cars parked diagonally, Omaha, Nebraska ppmsca.10438u.jpg

Cars parked diagonally along row of meters, Omaha, Nebraska, November 1938


Photos by John Vachon (b. St. Paul, Minnesota, 14 May 1914; d. 20 April 1975, New York, New York) from Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Collection, Library of Congress

8 comments:

TC said...

John Vachon took a job as a filing clerk at the Farm Security Administration in 1936, at the age of twenty-one. The following year, on the instigation of his boss, Roy Stryker -- who had suggested, "When you do the filing, why don't you *look* at the pictures" -- he started to make photographs himself. With advice from Ben Shahn he tried out a Leica in and around Washington. His apprentice work consisted of shots of "everything in the Potomac River valley". His boss, Roy Stryker, lent him equipment and encouragement. He had further guidance from Walker Evans, who insisted that he master the view camera, and Arthur Rothstein, who took him along on a photographic assignment to the mountains of Virginia. In 1938 Stryker sent him out on his first road trip, to Nebraska. He photographed FSA rural programs in that state for the agency's regional office. And Stryker asked that he concentrate on Omaha. Upon his return Vachon added 208 images from Omaha to the files. "I spent a cold November week in Omaha and walked a hundred miles," Vachon recalled in a 1973 interview. Stryker's instructions had been vague. What was he meant to be looking for? "Was it Kearney Street where unemployed men sat all day on the steps of cheap hotels? A tattoo parlor, and the city mission with its soup kitchen. Men hanging around the stockyards. One morning I photographed a grain elevator: pure sun-brushed silo columns of cement rising from behind CB&Q freight car. The genius of Walker Evans and Charles Sheeler welded into one supreme photographic statement, I told myself. Then it occurred to me that it was I who was looking at the grain elevator. For the past year I had been sedulously aping the masters. And in Omaha I realized that I had developed my own style with the camera. I knew that I would photograph only what pleased me or astonished my eye, and only in the way I saw it."

STEPHEN RATCLIFFE said...

Tom,

Great JV photos (as always) -- "I knew that I would photograph only what pleased me or astonished my eye, and only in the way I saw it." And great poem, Red, "Pink ceiling insulation / . . . falling into the antiseptic-stench water" and all.

Hazen said...

What a contrast in innocence. Reading Red and looking at Vachon, I wonder, can the word “innocence” get any traction anymore? Those faces in Vachon’s photos reveal something like trust when confronted by the camera/photographer. Not too much, maybe, because even then it was a manipulated world. Presto-Change-O, it morphed into ours.

And then there’s Red’s dead-on dissection of a necrotic world where cars and trucks and people too skid and crash into each other; spoken words are threats at some level or other; and death and decay hang in the air. We’re still in Nebraska. Hell has frozen over. What is, is.

Wooden Boy said...

There's crash-and-bang from the room next door, then sobs from some woman, then laughter.

Thin walls (like the ones we have here) draw you in a little too closely to other people's lives.

Blizzards do sharpen up the attention.

Can't get enough of Red's work at the moment.

TC said...

Poetry is the memory of Time. Red remembers this snow storm in Nebraska in late February 1980, when a community college basketball team, of which he was serving as co-coach, was stranded in York.

"We were returning from the regional tourney... and we were lucky to make it to a motel in York... with an indoor pool and roof insulation falling into the water."

TC said...

It took a bit of frosty woolgathering to compute that when Red was up across the state line having all that High Plains fun in Nebraska, we were shivering up in the Front Range down on the Colorado side of the line in an unwelcoming little burg named Nederland, where we had managed to land in a spot called Hurricane Hill... 'nuf said.

The intended segue then would be a frigid leap from York to York, as viewed on another balmy occasion in the second shot here.

TC said...

By the by, John Vachon's brief visit to York inevitably touched upon the necessities.

Erecting snow fence, York County, Nebraska, November 1940.

TC said...

Well, that shot I've just linked to didn't come from JV's initial Nebraska survey in 1938, but from a return stop two years later... not that the weather had improved much in the interim.