Wow! What a spectacular farm photo. But is this one of those photos that blurs the line between documentary and creative? I tend to think so. Great wall art for sure. A photo that could almost pass for a painting. “The Tin Lizzy“; Pennsylvania, c.1916. Not much left of this Model T, but the message would be entirely different if it had been in great shape.
Sometimes good things come in small packages. While small in terms of pixel size, “Chinese Farmer” – China c.1918 is rich in its message. As you may know my field is International Relations. I cannot defend the policies of Communist China nor that of the PLA. But I will say that to understand some of the current actions taken by Communist China you really need to study the history of China. If you truly understand their past it will greatly help in comprehending their actions vs. Taiwan, Hong Kong and the South China Sea.
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)
Photojournalism is not pretty. We have discussed this issue several times in the past. The significance of an image is what counts, not the technical aspects of its reproduction. A fine example of this is Robert Capa’s “Loyalist Militiaman at the Moment of Death” a/k/a “Falling Soldier” (Cerro Muriano, Spain Sept. 5, 1936) during the Spanish Civil War. Capa received the Pulitzer Prize for his efforts.
So our young woman leaning on a fence is likewise out of focus. Its meaning is subjective although we do not expect it to win a Pulitizer Prize. “A Windy Day on the Farm“; U. S. c.1915.
We are constantly searching for images of farmers at work. “John Deere in the Cornfield“; U. S. c.1950 is simply the latest addition to our collection and worthy of special recognition in our opinion. If you close your eyes you can almost see the green and yellow John Deere colors on the tractor and equipment. Almost.
We are committed to presenting images with the least amount of photo editing possible, using techniques only to remove blemishes and improve contrast. Some of our images are 100 years old and more, so they do need a certain amount of restoring. If you have been following DPI for years you may have noticed that we avoid even cropping unless absolute necessary such as a pole seemingly coming out of nowhere. This blog shows what is possible with photo manipulation by those not committed to pure photojournalism and documentary photography. And if we are able to present these augmented reality photos using our limited talents we can only imagine what more sophisticated photo editors are able to accomplish.
The lead photo in this blog is “Mud On The Ground“; U. S. c.1920. The original was developed using sepia printing. After 100 years it had faded somewhat so we simply refreshed the sepia with a new layer, still presenting it as close as possible to the original. In an altered version we call version #2 we replaced the bare sky with a different sky. This is a sky, in fact, that I shot several months ago in Riverhead, Long Island. It seemed to fit the situation. So we now have a blend of a color sky shot 100 years after the original sepia image. As an artistic representation I think that it has possibilities. The image of these three Dodge cars on a muddy farm road evoke scenes of the Great Depression and the migration from the Dust Bowl although that was ten years in the future from when this photo was taken. Ten years down the road as it were.
Version #3 involved converting version #2 into black and white. I think that this version is quite believable and fitting with the time in which the original photo was taken. I think there is a sense of doom represented here by the replaced sky. Bottom line is “seeing is not always believing”.
DPI has a substantial collection of farm photographs. This recently acquired image, “American Farm“; U. S. c.1920 is somewhat unusual especially for the period. In the first place you are viewing roughly a 100 year old image. Note the windmill protruding from behind the roof of the main house. What caught our eye is the low angle of view at which the image was shot coupled with the wide angle image created by the camera lens. This wide angle shot is not typical for the period. As you can see the edges of the image are somewhat out of focus. They are soft. This is common for camera lenses of this period. But even today wide angle lenses suffer from barrel and pincushion distortions which are even more evident in zoom lenses. The more things change the more they stay the same.
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.
The quotation may be recognized from the film “The International” (2009). Actually it dates to c. 1678 set down by the French fabulist Jean de la Fontaine in Fables. We believe that it illustrates our photo “Depression Farmer“; U. S. c. 1934 in ways that cannot be described otherwise.
“The Water Wagon” on a Kansas farm (1936). An iconic image from the Great Depression. The right subject taken at the precise moment in history with the photographer’s keen eye, a good camera and excellent lighting. Proof that you don’t have to be a professional photographer to produce excellent photos.