Sunday, April 30, 2006

The Light

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Museum Exterior

Friday, April 28, 2006

Flowers in Time

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Marion Post Wolcott

From the archives of the Farm Security Administration:

Dear Roy:

It gives me pleasure to give this note of introduction to Marion Post because I know her work well. She is a young photographer of considerable experience who has made a number of very good photographs on social themes in the South and elsewhere…I feel that if you have any place for a conscientious and talented photographer, you will do well to give her an opportunity.

Paul Strand

Marion Post was 29 years old when, on the basis of her portfolio and a letter of recommendation from Paul Strand, she was hired by Roy Stryker as one of the Farm Security Administration photographers. Although she also made photographs in other parts of the United States, she is known today for the photos she made documenting the depression in the South between 1938 and 1942. Her best known (and her personal favorite) photo, like the majority of FSA photographs, was made in black and white. Made at Belzoni, Mississippi, it shows a man walking up a set of stairs to the Blacks-only balcony entrance of the local movie theatre.

However, the color photographs extracted from government archives and published in the book Bound for Glory, show that she was also adept working in full color.

Marion Post Wolcott's work would be impressive under any circumstances, but it is all the more remarkable to think of her, a young woman traveling alone by automobile in the late 1930s, making photographs during daylight hours, processing film, cataloging and writing captions in the evenings.

That she was very much on her own is illustrated in part by excerpts of her letter of appointment from FSA head Stryker:

You will start at $2300 a year, with $5 a day expenses for the time you are in the field….You will receive 4 ½ cents a mile when you travel in your own car….We supply you with film, flashbulbs, and some equipment. If you desire a special camera, or cameras, I am afraid you will have to supply it at the present time….It is our desire to standardize as far as possible on the Leica Contax, and 3-1/4 x 4-1/4 Speed Graphic….

By all accounts, the attractive Miss Post was energetic, independent and strong-willed enough to handle the job. She described her job prior to the Farm Security Administration work:

When I took the FSA job, I already had battle scars. I had weathered…the first weeks as a female full-time staff photographer on the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin…The ten male photographers with whom I was to work, immediately put out their cigarette butts in my developer, spit in and hypoed it, probably peed in it; threw spit balls into my cubby-hole darkroom until my aim and speed became better than theirs. Finally, I exploded—telling them I was there to stay…I told them how and when I could be very useful to them, and that I needed their help in return; that they could teach me about a Speed Graphic and how to develop and print for a newspaper, that they could openly use their accustomed language and the four-letter words which I’d heard and used, and would welcome the opportunity to feel free to use them myself, again. That did it; we reached a truce…soon each one confidentially telling me that the others were wolves and he was going to be my protector.

In 1942 she married and raised a family. For a time her photography was largely confined to family and travel photos, although she began working professionally again in the 1970s and her photos were exhibited late in her life.

Her work and the work of other FSA photographers occupy an interesting spot in the photographic history of the United States. Equally importantly, her work stands with the work of other outstanding documentary photographers, at a junction where photojournalism and fine art photography intersect.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Bound for Glory

The Depression...In Color, the Variable Focus entry for March 18, included links to black & white and color photos made by Farm Security Administration photographers, plus a link to a slideshow featuring some of the FSA color photographs from the book Bound for Glory. Having since had a chance to carefully page through a physical copy of the book, it's time not only to look back at that March 18 entry but also to praise the extraordinarily fine work that is Bound for Glory.

The book's subtitle is America in Color, 1939-43, and what color it is! Perhaps the combination of the earliest Kodachrome and some subsequent time-induced fading has produced a happy accident, but these are photographs with a special texture and a different kind of presence than contemporary photos possess. Paradoxically, it is as if current state-of-the-art color can exceed this work yet cannot match it.

Review the March 18 entry and its links, and, if at all possible, take a look at the book itself. In addition to the unique experience of rediscovering a time and place in history--and in photography--Bound for Glory also highlights the work of lesser-known FSA photographers. Their artistry is of the top rank. Tomorrow we will look more specifically at one of these artists, Marion Post Wolcott, the photographer who captured the 1940 image (below) of Louisiana boys fishing in a bayou.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Lime Plant Redux

Monday, April 24, 2006

Coffee Drinkers

Sunday, April 23, 2006

She played by the water

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Apple Dumplings

Click on the photo for a larger view.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Swamp Bridge

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Spring Drawing

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Vicksburg headstone

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Photographers speak...

The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera. Dorothea Lange

When I say I want to photograph someone, what it really means is that I'd like to know them. Anyone I know I photograph. Annie Leibovitz

Photography for me is not looking, it's feeling. If you can't feel what you're looking at, then you're never going to get others to feel anything when they look at your pictures. Don McCullin

I only use a camera like I use a toothbrush. It does the job. Don McCullin

Sometimes walking down the street, wanting to make a picture, I would be so anticipatory, so anxious, that I would just have to fire the camera, to let fly a picture, in order to release the energy, so that I could recock it. Joel Meyerowitz

Photography is a response that has to do with the momentary recognition of things. Suddenly you're alive. A minute later there was nothing there. I just watched it evaporate. You look one moment and there's everything, next moment it's gone. Photography is very philosophical. Joel Meyerowitz

I have been a witness, and these pictures are my testimony. The events I have recorded should not be forgotten and must not be repeated. James Nachtwey

The fundamental belief in the authenticity of photographs explains why photographs of people no longer living and of vanished architecture are so melancholy. Beaumont Newhall

Visual ideas combined with technology combined with personal interpretation equals photography. Each must hold it's own; if it doesn't, the thing collapses. Arnold Newman

There are no rules and regulations for perfect composition. If there were we would be able to put all the information into a computer and would come out with a masterpiece. We know that's impossible. You have to compose by the seat of your pants. Arnold Newman

You learn to see by practice. It's just like playing tennis, you get better the more you play. The more you look around at things, the more you see. The more you photograph, the more you realize what can be photographed and what can't be photographed. You just have to keep doing it. Eliot Porter

Monday, April 17, 2006


Sunday, April 16, 2006

Have Another Drink

Click on any photo for a larger view.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Lime Plant

Friday, April 14, 2006

Have a Coke

Thursday, April 13, 2006


Please click on the photo to see a larger version.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Days of Heaven

One of the most visually interesting films of all time, and certainly one of the most lush and beautiful, is Days of Heaven, made in 1978 by director Terrence Malick. His films often include long stretches that are sparse on dialog, instead depending on the images to tell the story. In making Days of Heaven he almost entirely filmed scenes during the Golden Hour, in the sweet light that photographers love.

While much of the credit for the look of the film went to director Malick, the exact allocation of all the credit generated controversy. As critic Roger Ebert explained:

"Days of Heaven's'' great photography has also generated a mystery. The credit for cinematography goes to the Cuban Nestor Almendros, who won an Oscar for the film; "Days of Heaven'' established him in America, where he went on to great success. Then there is a small credit at the end: "Additional photography by Haskell Wexler.'' Wexler, too, is one of the greatest of all cinematographers. That credit has always rankled him, and he once sent me a letter in which he described sitting in a theater with a stopwatch to prove that more than half of the footage was shot by him. The reason he didn't get top billing is a story of personal and studio politics, but the fact remains that between them these two great cinematographers created a film whose look remains unmistakably in the memory.

In one memorable shot during the film, men walk through a field that is infested with locusts. As they move through the frame they appear to stir the locusts that fly up from the ground and swirl around them. Actors and actresses are notoriously temperamental, and rather than deal with the additional headache of getting thousands of locusts to perform on cue, Malick solved the logistical problem in an ingenious way. He had peanut shells dropped from a helicopter while the actors walked backwards through the field. When the direction of the film was reversed for playback, the "locusts" performed perfectly. Such is movie magic.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


Graves of Confederate unknowns buried along the old Natchez Trace.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Vintage Pump

Sunday, April 09, 2006

The Woods

(A digital double exposure. Click on the photo to see a larger version.)

Saturday, April 08, 2006

School Bus, Early Morning

Friday, April 07, 2006

Al Natale

January 1, 1927 - April 7, 2004

We miss you.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

A Time for Every Season

Wednesday, April 05, 2006


Tuesday, April 04, 2006


Monday, April 03, 2006

A photo-a-day with Capa and Cartier-Bresson

Today's headline is a bit of a stretch because, of course, Robert Capa and Henri Cartier-Bresson are not making photographs these days. However, Magnum, the photo agency they co-founded in 1947 has an agreement to post a photograph on-line every day at Slate magazine. The feature, Today's Pictures, displays single photos from the Magnum archives. Slate also provides links to Magnum in Motion, slideshows with audio commentary.

(Below, Robert Capa and Henri-Cartier Bresson)

Slate's Today's Picture site

Magnum Photos site

Sunday, April 02, 2006


Saturday, April 01, 2006