Photo Essays, Spot News and Stock Photography

Posts from the ‘Documentary’ category

Seemingly first class passengers. A sense of what life aboard the Titanic must have been like. See: Date is approximate; true date unknown.


Photo taken aboard the SS Pennsylvania somewhere on the Atlantic Ocean c.1900.  See: for details on this ship. Probably first class passengers, and I think this does give a sense of what life aboard the Titanic must have been like 12 years later.

The water wagon at the prison


Arkansas prison, “The Farm”.  Maybe not as well known as the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, but a place to stay far away from if possible. Shown here is the water wagon used for the prisoners out in the fields (April 18, 1957).  See: for a full explanation of the goings on at Cummins.

A farmer pushes his son in a homemade wheelbarrow during the Great Depression, c.1936


All things being equal I believe that most photographers choose to take well focused images. However, there are certain situations where a soft focused image works much better. In the creative world of advertising, motion in a photograph created by blurring or panning adds a new element into an otherwise static, two dimensional image. This practice is also used in sports photography to great effect. But what about photojournalism and documentary photography?

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Let the bidding begin.


I cannot think of a scenario in which a farm auction held in any time period is a joyful experience for the owner of the farm. Whether caused by environmental or financial circumstances or even death of the farmer the auction represents the end of an era for that individual farm. Those who attend the auction may find some real bargains, but there is a great sadness attached to these events. An estate sale is similar in that a person’s life can be seen by the material items left behind. What was important to this individual is on display. But in the case of a farm auction the sheer magnitude of the farm and farm implements, buildings and the people attending make for dramatic photojournalism.

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Fruit Tramp


Research on this photo leads us to the following assessment. This man is a migrant fruit picker in a camp in Washington State c. 1935. Known as ‘fruit tramps” these men traveled to Washington State to pick mainly apples most likely near Yakima. Such was life for many men during the Great Depression. Clearly the time of day was beer o’clock (Aussie slang).



Grandparents’ Day is celebrated on September 9 this year. After all, where would we be without them? A close examination of this photo, “Grandparents“; U. S. c.1950, tells us more about this couple. Note the work shoes on the man and the somewhat swollen feet of the woman. Possible indications of a failing heart for the woman and a life of hard work for the man.

Poverty in San Sebastián, Spain c.1933.


At first glance you may not realize the significance of this image. We see a man on a staircase overlooking a railing. Only when we discover that the location is San Sebastián, Spain does the picture become clearer. This is Basque Country and the Basques are treated like second class citizens. Recently, the Basques have voted for independence only to be denied once again by the ruling Spanish government. When we observe the poverty surrounding the man in this image, “The Basques” c.1933,  we begin to understand the reason for the Basque separatist movement.

The Stanley Theater at Kentucky Avenue and the Boardwalk.


The most recent addition to our Atlantic City collection is “Atlantic City Boardwalk“. This was a souvenir photo taken by the G. Dobkin Studio in Atlantic City for the gentlemen shown walking on the boardwalk. For us at DPI the remaining question is how accurate can we be in placing the exact location and date of the photo?

This proved to be relatively straightforward. A good starting point would be to argue that the date of the photo is approximately 1940 based upon the dress of the people. Although slightly out of focus the Stanley Theater is still visible. The theater was located at Kentucky Avenue and the boardwalk. What is more difficult but not impossible to determine is the listing on the theater marquee. Careful examination reveals a movie starring Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman. The movie is “Notorious” so we can conclude that the date of the photo coincides with the release of this film, August 1946. Assuming that this is not a rerun, of course.

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