Here is a fine example of an occupational portrait: “Bamboo Man“; China/Malaysia? (March 9, 1961). We know the date but are unsure of the exact location. It is the occupational portrait rather than a studio or otherwise sterile portrait that gives meaning to the image. Showing the subject in his/her natural habitat so to speak.
The Great Depression creates images of the “Dust Bowl”, migration, soup lines and many more especially those of images taken by the Farm Security Administration’s photographers in our minds. But how many of us think of the Jackrabbit Drives in Kansas where a population explosion of jackrabbits created havoc for farmers? See: https//www.kshs.org/kansapedia/jackrabbit-drives/12097.
“The Jackrabbit Drive“; Oakley, Kansas (1934)
If I showed you a photo of the Statue of Liberty I think that you would have little trouble in telling me that the location of the statue was New York Harbor. But what about a photo such as the one shown here? Could you identify the location? Call it an acquired skill or whatever, but after looking at tens of thousands of photos for 40 years such photo identification becomes possible. Perhaps my years of teaching history had some side benefits. I was able to identify the location without any accompanying documentation. This is “Fredericksburg, Virginia” c.1990 above the Rappahannock river. If you look closely you can you not see the Union and Confederate soldiers squaring off for battle? Almost.
Time to play detective. If you are unable to positively identify a photo regarding time and place at least you should try to determine what it is not. That is how we have always proceeded. This photo caught our eye. Was it a troop ship or a refugee ship? Close examination of the passengers ruled out the former as these are clearly not soldiers or sailors. So, refugees. We eliminated “boat people’ from Vietnam as the passengers appear to be Caucasian. Mariel boat lift from Cuba? Ship is way too large. Albanians fleeing to Italy? Wrong kind of ship.
Could these be survivors of the Titanic aboard the Carpathia? The hull does not match that of the Carpathia. Wish that is what it was, but the final answer is also significant. These are, in fact, Jewish refugees who were survivors of the Holocaust emigrating to Palestine (Israel) in 1948. Documentation that accompanied the photo set the date as 1948. The ship’s hull does not match the Exodus nor the Theodore Herzl. Possible match is the S.S. Patria, but we give a higher rating to the S.S. Providence which sailed from Marseilles. Again, we cannot be completely certain as to the name of this ship but its passengers and destination are beyond question.
“Jewish Refugee Ship“; Palestine (Israel, Feb. 1948).
If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck it is probably a duck. We assess that the men in white shirts and ties are high ranking members of the Ku Klux Klan, and along with other members are marching down Main street at the Crossroads in Tupelo, Mississippi (1923). This was during the second coming of the Klan. A sale on fedoras perhaps? Unlikely.
“Klan“; Tupelo, Mississippi (1923)