Found in the LOC: 15 Walker Evans ‘Praise’ Shots

Building off Tuesday’s post on James Agee, today’s Found in the LOC features 15 Walker Evans images taken for the men’s mutual project, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men.

Evans (1903-1975) never dreamed of photographing the down-and-out while growing up in Chicago’s affluent suburbs. His first love was French literature, and it was that subject that consumed his early, and brief, college education at Williams College. Frustrated by American academia, Evans left Massachusetts to spend 1925 in Paris before returning to the US, specifically New York City, where he worked as a Wall Street clerk.

It wasn’t until 1928 that Evans began taking photos, and it began as just a hobby –  snapping the Brooklyn Bridge and historic Boston homes. But things got more serious as the decade drew to a close, and in 1931, Evans shot the images for Carleton Beals’ The Crime of Cuba, about life on the island under Gerardo Machado’s iron fist. This work caught the attention of officials at the New Deal government’s Resettlement Administration, which in 1935 dispatched Evans to cover the Great Depression in West Virginia and Pennsylvania. This role in turn led Evans into the Farm Security Administration, for which he did similar work, only in the South, paving the way for Evans’ work with James Agee on Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, and the production of singular images that became as synonymous with the era’s trials and tribulations as Dorothea Lange’s.

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The Man Who Captured Motion, Eadward Muybridge

“Horse in Motion, 1878”

Eadward Muybridge, who was born on this date in 1830, had quite the life. An Englishman who emigrated to the States in 1850, at the age of 20, he worked as a publisher and bookseller in California, and he likely would have remained as such had it not been for a stage coach accident in Texas in 1860. Flung from the vehicle and hitting his head on a rock, Muybridge was taken to Arkansas for treatment following the accident, and it was there that he was introduced to photographer, a hobby that became his legacy. (Which is good, because otherwise he might be remembered for murdering his wife’s lover in 1874, a crime for which he was acquitted.)

Some of his first images were of the American West, including Yosemite, which caught the attention of California Governor Leland Stanford, who asked Muybridge to photograph his prize-winning horses. Muybridge readily agreed, embarking on a project that he hoped would answer the age-old question: does a running horse ever get completely airborne? (Above)

Taking a rapid succession of shots, Muybridge showed that, yes, horses did indeed remain airborne; he also realized that motion could be captured among humans, too, capturing the images below and inspiring and inventors, most notably Thomas Edison, who used Muybridge’s work as a springboard to develop motion pictures.

Muybridge died in 1904, back in mother England, but his artistic and technical impact remain world-changing even today: without Muybridge we wouldn’t have Black Panther, after all.

After the jump, four more early Muybridge images capturing motion in action.

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Found in the LOC: 29 Pics of Female Machinists, ’41-43

Earlier this month, I posted an incredible image of a woman working on B-25 bomber during World War II. That was just one of hundreds such images taken by Office of War Information photographer Alfred T. Palmer, though only a few dozen are color.

Here are 29 of those colorized images, some taken in Long Beach, others in Akron and others in Nashville, all between 1941 and 1943, and all showing how integral women were to the war effort: A quarter of the female population was working either on the home front or as part of the armed services during those years, only to be sent back to the kitchen when the men folk returned. It was an injustice, to be sure, but helped set the stage for the women’s rights movement in the decades ahead.

[That said, had men of that era really respected and appreciated women’s efforts in the war years and kept them on, perhaps the women’s rights movement wouldn’t have been necessary….]

Anyway, check out 28other great images after the jump. I’ve kept commentary to a minimum, but I must say some of the outfits here deserved a shout out. To some, commenting on women’s clothing may seem sexist, but what can I say? I’m a fan of fashion.

Above, a woman working on “Vengeance” dive bomber in Tennessee, 1943.

[And for more Found in the LOC, click here.]

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Found in the LOC: 21 Marion Post Wolcott Photos

The fact that Marion Post was a woman was novel for a professional photographer circa the 1930 — and trust it caused some consternation among some of her male colleagues, like the guys at the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin who pissed in her developing chemicals. Even after bawling them out, thus earning their begrudging respect, Post was still regulated to the “women’s beat,” i.e. fashion shows and society events. The paper even ran a piece called “Strange Jobs for Women,” with photojournalist as the headliner; a portrait of Post ran alongside it. It was therefore a huge relief for her when Post was invited in 1938 to join the Farm Security Administration, the government agency tasked with documenting life in post-Depression America. Post was their first full-time female photographer. (Dorothea Lange, who joined in 1935, was only part-time; the women met exactly once.)

The FSA was a perfect spot for Post. She had planned on becoming a teacher — in fact was studying child psychology in Vienna when she first dabbled with photographer, documenting the rise of fascism circa 1932 — and had worked in a few classrooms prior to that Bulletin gig, freelancing only when she could find the time. But her early work was prescient of the direction her career would take: Post snapped shots of the poor kids who resided near her upstate home and, in 1937, did principal photographer for Elia Kazan’s pro-labor film The People of the Cumberlands. Her extracurricular images she took of the rural people, published in the New York Times Magazine, helped lead to the Tennessee Valley Authority. The FSA’s struggle-centric mission was very much in her wheelhouse.

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Found in the LOC: 27 Gordon Parks Photos

(This is the first in what will be an ongoing series, “Found in the L.O.C.,” the Library of Congress.)

Chance played an instrumental role in artist Gordon Parks’ genre-spanning career. That’s both chance, as in “happenstance,” and chance, as in “taking a risk.” The former came early, and in fact catalyzed his career: The man who developed Parks’ film was impressed by the young shutterbug’s eye and suggested that he start taking photos for an upscale women’s fashion shop. That was 1937; Parks was a 25-year old black man. Applying for such a gig was the first occupational chance he took.

Up until then Parks, born dirt poor in Ft. Scott, Kansas and now living in St. Paul, had been working in bars and brothels, playing piano, singing and collecting used glasses to make ends meet. Once rent was made and food consumed, Parks spent what was left on Life and other glossy photo magazines, magazines he absorbed voraciously and that inspired him to save up for a camera. Soon he was snapping shots of life around him, i.e.: the somewhat seam side of night life, and that’s how he met  the developer who encouraged him to go pro. And Parks didn’t stop taking chances for another 68 years.

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