History tends to repeat itself but not exactly. Are we headed for another Great Depression? Probably not as there is a safety net which did not exist in the early 1930s. Social security, unemployment insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, etc. Yet there are disturbing signs of the 30s all around us such as this food line at the North Babylon High School. At least we can now line up in our Toyotas, Jeeps and BMWs. I even noticed one fellow in his Corvette this morning. Not like the bread lines of the 30s for sure.
My master’s thesis examined the role of the media during the period, you will excuse the expression, of the “Indian Wars” between the Lakota and Cheyenne Nations and the government of the United States. Specifically from May 1862 until Wounded Knee (December 29, 1890). Needless to say the conflict between the Lakota, Cheyenne and the United States did not turn out favorably for these American Indians. Of the 574 federally recognized tribes, technically known as “domestic dependent nations”, it would be fair to say that they have become marginalized. The wonder of it all is that any were able to survive the interaction with the U. S. government. Which brings us to the Navajo.
The image in this blog “Mississippi River Ferry” is a recent addition to our ferry collection. When we first saw this photo it appealed to us in terms of the composition. The dock, the ferry, the river and the seagull in the left of the scene make this work. The question for us, as is the case most of the time, was where and when? The construction of the ferry speaks to the southern part of the Mississippi River. That was clear. But was it a crossing in Mississippi, perhaps Natchez, or further south into Louisiana? There are so many crossings. What we were unable to see until the the image went into photo editing was the sign on the building across the river in the left of the frame. “Algiers Dry Dock & Shipbuilding Co.” Problem solved, New Orleans! Today the new kid on the block, for about the last 70 years, is Bollinger. Various companies have been in that location since the mid 1800s. These are the times when the satisfaction for us is greater when we are able to answer a where or when question or both in addition to appreciation of the image itself.
“Mississippi River Ferry“; New Orleans, Louisiana c.1930
Day 57…and counting! I think we need a mental exercise to keep us sharp. So take your best guess on the lead photo, where and when? Hiroshima? No. Nagasaki? No. How about Tokyo? Nope. O. K. so maybe Berlin? Nein. Dresden? Nein. Antwerp? No. Got to be Stalingrad. Nyet! Give up?
Please listen to Governor Cuomo. Let the facts and science be your guide. All of us want to get back to life the way it used to be. In the meantime we need to obey social distancing. Absolute social distancing will stop the infection rate cold. As this is not possible we must do our best and also wear a mask and wash our hands. If you decide to go your own way on this and flaunt these new directives what is going to happen is that the infection rate will go right back up. So instead of coming out of this nightmare in June, June will stretch into July, July into August and so on. More people are going to die. Many more. To flaunt these new rules will push a re-opening date further back. In just the past few days as some states have decided to re-open just look at what is going on with the infection rate. See the statistics coming from Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Minnesota, and Arizona just name a few. If you really want to get out stay in. The virus cannot find you if you never go outside. Those people who contract the virus will either recover or die. Without new hosts to infect the virus will run its course. While we wait for a vaccine this is the only sane course to follow. Unfortunately our health care workers and all other essential workers have to risk their lives daily. We salute you!
“Texting…Texting…Texting“; Manhattan, January 31, 2018.
Just another class photo you say. Not really if you understand the back story. You will note the addition of one young man in the front row with the girls as the photographer tried to keep the image in balance. But back to the story. These students are 6th graders at the Park Hill School in North Little Rock, Arkansas. “Class Photo” (January 1935). These children appear to be happy, well-fed and well-groomed at the height of the Great Depression in a state hard hit by the times. Ben Shahn was a photographer commissioned by the Farm Security Administration to document the struggle of people in America during the Depression. Shanh spent time in Arkansas photographing rural scenes. Those of us familiar with his work and other photographers who fanned out across America have images in their minds of extreme suffering and poverty associated with the Great Depression. But here with the 6th graders in North Little Rock all seems well. So even in a state admittedly singled out for documentation by the Farm Security Administration, the Depression had uneven consequences for the population depending on geography. From this photo it would seem that the suffering was unequal and that North Little Rock fared better than other communities. This should not be surprising to us as we can clearly see at the present time the unequal effects of the coronavirus on communities across our nation.
I think that you would have great difficulty in coming up with a better title for this photo than “40 Acres and a Mule“. Photo taken on the Oak Grove a/k/a Kali Oka Plantation in Saraland, Alabama c.1926. Haunted, maybe so they say. Read the history of “40 Acres and a Mule“. Saraland is just north of Mobile in Mobile County.