One of the most respected photographers of the Farm Security Administration during the 1930s was Walker Evans. Evans’ subjects were varied, but he is perhaps best well known for his images of advertising signs. His work stands out from some of his contemporaries such as Arthur Rothstein, Dorothea Lange, Russell Lee, John Vachon, Marion Post Wolcott and others because of the uniqueness of his style.
This slideshow presents some of the work of A. Michael Uhlmann. As a contributing photojournalist based in Texas, Uhlmann has access to the Texas lifestyle as seen in his “Daily Life” collection. His work is not limited to only this collection. What is so special is that Uhlmann’s photographic style is clearly recognizable. Several of his other collections are located in our Texas gallery. His biography is available on our Photographers’ Page.
The quote is only one of many memorable ones from the film Scarface (1983) said by Tony Montana (Al Pacino). But photographically speaking and not as a gangster the point is well taken. I have said this many times in past reporting, and I agree when it is said that the eyes are the window to the soul. I find it particularly painful to see stress in the eyes of a child. A recent photo of a young boy saved from fighting in Aleppo, Syria touched Western viewers deeply.
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The family is the fundamental unit of all civilizations. I would argue that the photo presented here, “Young Lovers“, is representative of this concept. Taken on Independence Day (July 4, 1922) on Balboa Beach, Newport Beach California it is an image that is easily understood for those who came into adulthood living near the seashore. We have presented it here in the original sepia tone as we believe it enhances the period of the 1920s when many photos were reproduced in sepia. See more images from our People collection.
A significant image is one that tells a story. It displays more than what is obvious at first glance. It makes you think. Such images have staying power long after the initial viewing, and reside in our deep unconscious memory. Some become iconic of which a fine example is the “Flag Raising on Iwo Jima” taken by Joe Rosenthal on Mt. Suribachi. And so we at DPI try to select only the best of photojournalism and documentary photography that communicates more of a story to the viewer. Above we present “Kentucky – 1938”. If all you see in this image is an old, wrecked car we think that you are missing the point. There are clues everywhere in photos if you know how to find them and discover their meaning. The license plate is visible as giving the year 1938. If it were sitting in a junkyard for years the plate would have been removed long ago. This is Appalachia after all, and this car was on the road during a most interesting period of American history, the Great Depression. So you have to wonder was this car used by moonshiners running from the authorities? Perhaps it was used by bank robbers such as George “Baby Face” Nelson or John Dillinger. Maybe it was used by government agents or maybe it was simply used by ordinary folks and rests comfortably as a victim of the times. We will never know for sure.
The stern looking woman in this photo we call “Hendricks, West Virginia c.1910” may have had a good reason for her mood. Upon closer inspection we can see what appears to be the remnants of a black eye on her right cheek and eyelid. There are clues everywhere if you take the time to look for them. Putting all of the pieces together to determine date, location and circumstances is the challenge.
Turning to Appalachia once more, the photo below we call “Trouble in Appalachia”. Taken in southwestern Virginia in 1934, this unhappy couple is stopped by Walkers Mountain. The nature of their unhappiness is unknown, of course, but you would expect people stopping at an overlook and having their picture taken would be having a happy moment. Perhaps the car broke down. Perhaps they ran out of money or gas. Perhaps they just heard some bad news. Whatever is going on they seem to be shunning each other. A simple marital spat? An ongoing issue? We can only speculate, but there is more going on here than meets the eye.
There are some images that affect our very soul, and so we search for contemporary equivalents in our subconscious. Above is “Pulaski County, Arkansas (1935)” taken by the great Farm Security Administration photographer Ben Shahn. This photo is in the Library of Congress. Shahn had an exceptional photographer’s eye especially when it came to documenting people. Below, we present “Migrant Field Workers”; Illinois c.1939. The photographer is unknown. This scene immediately evoked memory of Shahn’s Pulaski County taken in an Arkansas cotton field. Perhaps scenes of migrant workers in a tomato patch are a bit less intense. See more images in our 1930s collection.
The Rohingya identify themselves as a Muslim ethnic group living in western Myanmar. Buddhists in Myanmar call them Bengalis and demand that the name Rohingya be stricken from public discourse. The Rohingya have been discriminated for some time and as a result have fled, in some cases, to neighboring countries. For the Rohingya this is their personal diaspora.
The images selected for the “Best of DPI – Spring 2016” were based on viewers’ selections. A wide range of documentary images cover life in America during the Great Depression. Several of these photos are in the same style of some of the most influential photographers in American history.
The first Earth Day was held in New York City on April 22, 1970. We are fortunate to have this collection of images taken by Len Alberici of West Babylon, N. Y. To learn more about the significance of Earth Day please see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earth_Day.