For me the connection was instantaneous. I guess it was the brick wall. Jacob Riis documented the plight of the poor and their living conditions in New York City at the turn of the 20th century. Required reading is his work How the Other Half Lives (1890). A good number of his photographs contain brick walls. We hope that he would approve of this presentation, “The Empty Box“; West Virginia c.1931.
As if you still need to be informed. In monetary wealth perhaps but not in spirit. We present two different scenes taken in 1937 in the midst of the Great Depression. Above is “1935 Ford 3 Window Coupe“; U. S. (September 8,1937). A young couple share a moment on a quiet Sunday. Note the rumble seat.
With all eyes focused on the current humanitarian crisis on our southern border let us not forget that U. S. citizens were once also migrants living in squalor in relocation camps during the Great Depression. The power of the still photograph is clearly evident and on display with the recent, tragic photo of the migrant Oscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez and his daughter Valeria who drowned in the Rio Grande at Matamoros while seeking asylum in the United States. I think that it is fair to say that that image will clearly be in the running for the next Pulitizer Prize.
We have many environmental portraits of women included in our People collection. Shown here are three recent arrivals. It should be remembered that for a number of these images women did not as yet have the right to even vote in the United States. Our lead photo is “Lady In A Snowstorm“; Michigan c,1974. When you have to go out for milk and bread nothing, not even a snowstorm can stop this woman.
It is unfortunate that John Vachon’s name does not immediately come to mind in the discussion of the Farm Security Administrations’s photographers during the 1930’s. Dorothea Lange is perhaps the best known, but others such as Walker Evans, Russell Lee, Arthur Rothstein and John Vachon seems to fall into a second tier. This is unfortunate. Vachon’s work was unique compared to some of the other FSA photographers, and it is for that reason that his photographs made a strong impression on me. Some of his photographs were taken during a rain storm. His image of diagonally parked cars in “Omaha, Nebraska 1938” shown below inspired me to try and in some way to duplicate his style. I would like to think that “Alexandria, Indiana 1955” would meet Vachon’s approval.
Who will remember us after we are gone? In part, perhaps folks will remember DPI by the images we have left behind.
“…I wish my life was a non-stop movie show
A fantasy world of celluloid villains and heroes
Because celluloid heroes never feel any pain
And celluloid heroes never really die…” – The Kinks (1972)
A classic image to be sure. You know it when you see it. “Dust Bowl Mother“; Texas c.1937. Prosperity, depression, war and victory. They are not called the Greatest Generation without cause.
Located within DPI’s Documentary collection is the Americana gallery on page one. This gallery contains two extensive Event collections which we want to bring to your attention. On page two in this gallery in the “1930s” event which includes many images taken during the Great Depression. There are 66 pages within this event providing hundreds of images. Likewise in this gallery located on page five is our “People” event. Here there are 99 pages displaying hundreds of images. Both events should provide numerous selections for your needs.
You say that it could never happen again, scenes right out of the Great Depression. I say not only could it happen again under different circumstances, but there are already disturbing signs. For it is not only the 800,000 federal workers who are working without pay, but with every passing day there is going to be a ripple effect throughout the economy that is already underway. Breadlines have formed. The air traffic controllers have basically said that flying under these conditions is at your own risk. With every passing day of the shutdown more people will be affected than simply federal workers. Food stamp allocations for March will not be paid under existing conditions. At that point I would expect to see a hunger march in front of the White House. I do not think that the Administration has fully contemplated the wide-ranging effects of this self-inflicted government shutdown. Maybe the best people, these economists, were the wrong people to be hired or maybe they just don’t care?
A rare image deserves special recognition. “The Soup Kitchen”; U. S. c.1931. Possibly run by the Capuchin Services Center in Detroit. Note the cross on the sign, and note the box of Campbell’s soup carried by one of the men.