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Sunday, 19 December 2010

Rain, Heavy at Times


Image, Source: digital file from intermediary roll film

Rain and snow in Providence, Rhode Island: photo by Jack Delano, December 1940

First no sound in the world, and then
the blowing of the wind through the trees
in the fleeting dark of night
violent at times, how do those old trees stand it

Rain in the downspouts
before dawn, the very large
in the very small

Image, Source: digital file from intermediary roll film

Rainy day, Indianapolis, Indiana: photo by John Vachon, January 1942

Image, Source: digital file from intermediary roll film

Rainy day, Indianapolis, Indiana: photo by John Vachon, January 1942

Image, Source: digital file from intermediary roll film

Rainy day, Indianapolis, Indiana: photo by John Vachon, January 1942
Image, Source: intermediary roll film

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

Image, Source: intermediary roll film

Car parked in the rain on residential street, Detroit, Michigan: photo by Arthur Siegel, July 1942

Image, Source: intermediary roll film

Rain over New Mexico, from Capulin National Monument, Capulin, New Mexico: photo by Russell Lee, September 1939

Image, Source: intermediary roll film

Heavy rain, Custer County, Montana (in the plains area most of the annual ten inches of rain comes in torrents, creating gullies and sheet erosion): photo by Arthur Rothstein, June 1939

Image, Source: intermediary roll film

State highway number 45 near State College, Pennsylvania in the rain: photo by Edwin Rosskam, July 1941

Image, Source: intermediary roll film

Rain-soaked tobacco field near Shoofly, Granville County, North Carolina: photo by Jack Delano, May 1940

Image, Source: intermediary roll film

Slick Georgia road during pause in heavy rain, near Flint River, Georgia: photo by Marion Post Wolcott, May 1939

After rain, house exteriors on Van Horn Street, Hamilton County, Ohio: photo by Carl Mydans, December 1935

Front of old brick structure in section near Union Station, Washington, D.C.; land is low here and water collects in front and backyard after a rain and remains for many days; entrances to privies are usually under water; interior of homes similar in shabbiness to exterior: photo by Carl Mydans, September 1935

Image, Source: intermediary roll film

Migrant pea pickers camp in the rain, California: photo by Dorothea Lange, February 1936

Cows out in the rain on the farm of Mr. Addison, an FSA client, Westfield, Connecticut: photo by Jack Delano, September 1940

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




Yes, "rain, heavy at times" -- in Indiana, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Kentucky, New Mexico, Montana, North Carolina, Georgia, Ohio, Washington D.C., California, Connecticut -- Berkeley and Bolinas too, not the big one they were promising (yet) but it's still going on, who knows how long -- global warming (?). . . .


grey whiteness of fog against invisible
ridge, sparrow perched on redwood fence
in foreground, wave sounding in channel

that is moving toward which,
itself is as observer

as he had been before, that
to be thought, action

grey-white clouds against top of ridge,
shadowed green pine on tip of sandspit

SarahA said...

Yes I am knowing all about Rain.This Rain you talk about. She is a frequent visitor to my part of the world.But without the Rain (even heavy)sometimes the Sun on his own cannot make a Rainbow; right?
I found by gazing at these pictures of her torments and then reading the words, brought her closer in towards my feelings.
I am loving 'the very large in the very small again' Those last words, those few words say so much; even about the Rain within oneself.
I am thinking, I am liking this muchly; you.

My word verification is 'ouchy' Ha! Did my comment make sense? If not delete!

Robb said...

Home run out of the park and all the way to Shnes.

Loved this:

"the very large
"in the very small

Robb said...

Oh, and where do you find these pictures? In a gratemi? Online? I'd love to know.

Anonymous said...

It sounds like a logical impossibility to say that you and your collaborators have "nailed" rain, but I think you have. This is stunning.

TC said...

Oh my, what a flood of gratitude in one's heart for one's friends, at a time like this.

This post is probably a bit of crazy black magic, it was made in the wake of a nasty accident that happened in the midst of the spectacular storms we have been having.

Not that I have anything against rain, one of Mother Nature's blessings. But is this rain coming from Mother Nature, or from Mother Man?

Stephen is close enough to "the edge" to capture both the closer and the bigger picture:

"...not the big one they were promising (yet) but it's still going on, who knows how long -- global warming (?). . . ."

We've been having crashing weather, in short.

On Friday night, in a teeming rain, crossing a parking lot, I failed to see a set of vehicle-repellent spikes, tripped, the pavement came up hard and fast, and I ended up breaking a rib and cracking a tibia. ("This must be the end," he thought, struggling to stay conscious.)

that is moving toward which,
itself is as observer

as he had been before,

SarahA, your word verification, like you, is an oracle, and your lovely words are always the bearers of the very large in the vast and wonderfully small,

Robb, your word verifications always remind me how much I love you, and I wish I could tell you the easy way to find these pictures. They're all in the LOC, the Farm Security Administration archive, the files contain 244,000 black and white negatives, some 166,000 of these have been digitized, it is a wealth of heroic endeavour, reminding one that there once was an America that almost lived up to its promises, the archival channels are a clogged labyrinth of problem, but with a bit of patience one can find one's way (took me about eighteen months... and still learning...),

And Curtis, as always, thanks for getting it. (My collaborators thank you too.)

SarahA said...

I am thinking you need a hug! *hug*

Curtis Faville said...


All those WPA photos of rainy streets with black cars and no hope and no prospects--it's all so nostalgic!

You seem to be caught in a very nostalgic loop these days. They say as we move into old age, we think more about the past, especially the days of our childhood and youth.

I share your interest in these old documentary images.

It's like a false positive: I didn't live through those times, but they were the reality of my (our) parents' lives, and I think we may actually experience some kind of "unconscious" memory of them, like Jung (I think) believed.

TC said...


Thank you very much, I definitely needed that!

TC said...


Of course I can't have spent all that time in these archives without asking myself the "nostalgia loop" question, more than once.

The idealizing or mythologizing of a past that may or may not have existed is a regressive symptom, but the odd thing about photographs like these is that, while we are aware there is a political directive behind the survey, the views themselves have an objective quality that remains unquestionable. Seeing the surfaces and forms of a lost world, I think that persons of our age do indeed, as you suggest, reconstruct that lost world out of fleeting memories we may have had, or think we have had.. at any rate I certainly do this.

For instance, in posting the John Vachon set on Dubuque, I was conscious all along of a "hidden motive," that is, a wish to reconstruct or retrieve from my own past a number of trips into that specific part of the country made with my father and grandafther in the late 1940s.

So in some sense there is a kind of a "verification process" at work, for me.

And what I am able to dredge up of that past, from these remarkable photos, is an America that has certain surprisingly tangible qualities.

And when I compare that America with the America I see around me/us, I am afraid I become subject to that sort of historical melancholy for which nostalgia has earned itself a bad name over the years.

(But I am still trying to work this out, and will never finish... so these are just thoughts-in-progress or -regress, I guess.)

Julia said...

I came late to all this, but I'm enjoying it a lot.

I wish I could stop the rain for you (isn't this an arrogant thinking?)


TC said...

No, it's just hopeful; and no, not too late -- your timing is excellent as always, and as always much appreciated.

(It's the thought that counts, as the saying goes.)

Ed Baker said...

THAT'S the back of the house not the front:

I moved into that Union Station, D.C.neighborhood
around 1948
possibly very near to that photo that you have up..

we also had a dilapidated cellar hatch just like the one in the photo looks very much like the back of our house... what is in the photo is the back yard

we moved in to the store let s see.... in 1948 or 9.. so about 10-12 years after this photo.

those houses now in what is called "Capitol Hill"

which has become very trendy and extends all the way to about 12 th & H Street N.E.

those "shacks" now selling for 1/2 a mil

would sure like to know the names first and last
of those kids...

I betcha that their parents shopped in our gbrocery store....

Anonymous said...

That must have been incredibly painful and depressing, Tom -- the image is maybe a bit film noir-y, if you don't mind my saying so. I've broken a lot of bones, I remember what a funny feeling it is not being able to move all of a sudden. I'm very sorry. I hope you're feeling somewhat better, warm and more cozy, by now.

Anonymous said...

And I hate rain more than anything, but the way the water in your pictures builds up... is pretty great.

Anonymous said...

You know, I don't think cows mind it.


TC said...


Thanks for the useful local knowledge. Something told me that photo would light up the memory pinball for you.

(Interesting point, by the by, as to whether that is the back of the house or the front; you may well be right -- but as Carl Mydans was there, and wrote that caption card himself, and always took unusual pains to get the details right in his captions, I'm inclined to just live with his mistake, if that is indeed what it is, for surely greater mistakes have been made... and we shall abide. At least for the moment, at any rate.)

TC said...


Thanks very much. Angelica made the same point about the cows. They are clearly untroubled.

No self-respecting cow, furthermore, would ever trip over an anti-vehicle spike no matter how blinding the rain -- and in the unlikely event it did so, its bones would probably be a bit better padded than mine. (At a brittle ten-stone-and-wasting, the padding is currently in short supply.)

And yes, film noir-y was the scene, though there was no femme fatale lurking in the mist and shadows (more's the pity).

About the broken bones, one ought to be manly and stoic, I suppose, but as you have offered sympathy, I am inclined to lap it up and return with a larger spoon for a second helping (recalling however that it was just such a request that got Nicholas Nickleby, I believe it was, if not more than one of those poor Dickens workhouse lads, into trouble).

I had forgotten about broken bones, though I have had far too many of them. At this point the rib fracture is the worst, as the leg at least can be rested. But with the rib, there comes the lung, and the excruciating and exquisite pain accompanying breathing, coughing (worse), sneezing (unspeakable), and in fact any expression or movement of the upper torso... well, you get the picture.

I am a terrible convalescent at the best of times, and this is not the best of times.

However I managed to maneuver the ancient bent frame out into the weather in the the middle of the night just long enough to permit an illuminating glimpse of this.

A once in a lifetime event quite literally, even if one expects an extended lifetime (the last winter-solstice total eclipse, as I'm sure everybody is aware, occurred in the 17th century).

So did you get a peek at it in Norway?

Anonymous said...

This is the first I've heard of it, but in any case it's very overcast here, it's snowing, so we wouldn't see it. Fantastic, though.

I've broken ribs. I remember, laughing is a bit of a problem.


TC said...

Oh, Artur, now you've made me laugh (almost).

(Even a dry smile comes with an ouch factor, right now).

Thank you nonetheless.