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Friday, 17 December 2010

John Vachon: Mid-American


Seed and feed store, Lincoln, Nebraska: photo by John Vachon, 1942

Rain, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: photo by John Vachon, June 1941

Fountain in front of Union Station, St. Louis, Missouri: photo by John Vachon, May 1940

Image, Source: digital file from b&w film copy neg. from file print

Girl and movie poster, Cincinnati, Ohio: photo by John Vachon, October 1938

Image, Source: digital file from intermediary roll film

Parking lot, Cincinnati, Ohio: photo by John Vachon, October 1938

Image, Source: digital file from intermediary roll film

Man reading newspaper in Fountain Square, Cincinnati, Ohio: photo by John Vachon, October 1938

Image, Source: digital file from intermediary roll film

Girl watching the sesquicentennial parade, Cincinnati, Ohio: photo by John Vachon, October 1938

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

Cars parked diagonally along row of meters, Omaha, Nebraska: photo by John Vachon, November 1938

File:Girl carrying her father's lunch pail, Omaha 10439u.jpg

Girl carrying her father's lunch pail, South Omaha, Nebraska: photo by John Vachon, November 1938

Coal miner's son at Granger Homesteads, Iowa
: photo by John Vachon, May 1940

Coal miner's son at Granger Homesteads, Iowa
: photo by John Vachon, May 1940

North Dakota landscape, McHenry County
: photo by John Vachon, October 1940

Image, Source: b&w film copy neg. of print

Peculiar, Missouri
: photo by John Vachon, January, 1942

Gas station, Benton Harbor, Michigan: photo by John Vachon, July 1940

Negro boy near Cincinnati, Ohio: photo by John Vachon, 1942

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


Darya Antonovna Papko said...

Lovely! I love old-school photos

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Beautiful work by Vachon, thanks, Tom.

TC said...

Many thanks, Darya and Don.

Many thanks, John Vachon.

awyn said...

What incredible photos. I especially liked the one of Pittsburgh in the rain--that street, that rain, that scene, for some reason held me longer than any of the others. But all worth re-seeing a second time. Thank you for these.

Elmo St. Rose said...

there grew the mightiness
of the common man

Anonymous said...

All great, but I'm with Awyn. Pittsburgh in the rain seems, well, archetypal.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Being in Pittsburgh, my wife and I tried to identify the area of the photo. It is flat, which is unusual for Pittsburgh, so we believe it is on the South Side. I searched some churches (there are so many here) and the closest I came up with was St. John's Ukranian Catholic Church. Depending on angle and renovations/improvements over the years it is a possibility.

The google street view from above (once you've zoomed in all the way) reveals an angled turn if you move left of the church (from aerial view), which lends some credence to this. There appears to be a nearby railroad and one of many abandoned factories nearby. Then again, I could be way off but since so many folks evinced interest in the photo, I thought I'd give it a stab.

Julia said...

Beautiful tom1 I love the boy from 1940 and the girl in front of the film poster

TC said...

The drenching rain in Pittsburgh 1941 has been reproduced here night after night in the decaying urbs of the West, and last night this ancient blogger was foolish enough to stagger out into it, and, blinded by the downpour, attempting to walk across a parking lot, stumbled over some anti-vehicle spikes (worthy of a medieval fortress), and took a very bad fall. Old bones cracking, tibia and rib. Dragged the aching remains to the computer this morning and was extremely cheered by these comments, which remind me again that there's "somebody out there". So, thanks everybody.

Julia, that girl in front of the movie poster is for me one of the classic heartbreaker images of all time.

And too the 1940 boy in the two shots from Granger Homesteads, Iowa is marvelous indeed. Here we see John Vachon's remarkable ability to allow his subjects to feel at ease, and "be natural".

The way the boy opens up and shows the beauty and humour of his being to us, in the second shot, seems to me evidence of Vachon's great genius.

The slightly "Eastern" cast of the boy's eyes, apparent particularly in the second shot, suggested to us that his coal miner father may well have been Slavic. (A large share of the persons photographed in the FSA survey were of course first of second generation immigrants, often assigned by this fact to the impoverished classes.)

And speaking of Eastern and heartbreaking, Don, it is wonderful to have your research findings on the locale of the Pittsbugh-in-the-rain shot.

I've researched this myself, and I am sure you are correct: St. John's Ukrainian Catholic Church.

It is a landmark of sorts, as I gather.

The Eastern Orthodox faith of many immigrant steelworkers drew the FSA photographers to these images. Another great FSA photographer, Arthur Rothstein, took this shot of the same church in July, 1938, two years before Vachon's visit.

Arthur Rothstein: Russian Orthodox church, Pittsburgh, July 1938

Julia said...

Lamento mucho que te hayas lastimado, Tom. Espero que te recuperes pronto.

You're absolutely right, this image is heartbreaking. There's such a "distance" between the expressions in one and the other girl!
How many times oneself can feel identified with this: "I'm sad/boring/exhausted, while the rest of the world is happy/ excited/in love..."
But not always, luckily, sometimes good things reach to us.

TC said...

Gracias, Julia. Sí, ha sido una mala semana aquí. Diluvios, agrietados huesos, una inundación.

Tienes razón acerca de la foto, la distancia entre el sueño (el cartel de la película, con su promesa de un gran drama romántico) y la realidad (la chica de trabajo esperando a su autobús, tal vez).

La foto es formal, grave, sin embargo, al mismo tiempo tan conmovedor. Y dice mucho.

SarahA said...

When I look at children's faces of time before. They look different than children now. I am thinking now they do not have that innocence about them.
I am seeing Rain again! And yet 'the Sun will come out tomorrow, yes tomorrow; you can bet your bottom dollar the sun will come out tomorrow!'( Or something like that!)

TC said...


Oh, the innocence... shy and sly and yet open and direct and... where has it gone?

(I fear I am not betting my bottom dollar on the imminent return of the sun any more than I am betting it on the imminent return of innocence, but then being proven wrong would not be extraordinary, and besides, my bottom dollar is already spoken for, I have willed it to... you.)

Anonymous said...

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