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"Where's Adolf?"
March 20, 2012 9:01 AM   Subscribe

4x5 Kodachromes from the American war effort in 1942.
posted by Sticherbeast (33 comments total) 51 users marked this as a favorite

 
These are beautiful on so many level. It's so seldom you get to see imagery from that time period in color that these photos really pop out at you.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 9:06 AM on March 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Makes you think all the world's a sunny day.

It seems like every few years camera technology gets retroactively more advanced. I can't wait for full color portraits of the Kaiser.
posted by 2bucksplus at 9:09 AM on March 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Very nice. I love the color saturation of Kodachrome (RIP). I know I can get the same clarity/quality with digital photography, but I can't. It never looks right to me, somehow. I miss my old 4x5 and its horribly inconvenient and expensive film!
Also, photo #16 is my idea of the perfect date. Hot.
posted by heyho at 9:17 AM on March 20, 2012


Damn, they sure killed some flash bulbs for those indoor shots. Even with the optics of 70 years past, throw the right light in there and you can get amazing eye-popping images.

Also #26, Inglewood is so... white.
posted by Mercaptan at 9:23 AM on March 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


So many of those are right out of Norman Rockwell. Unfortunately including the near total absence of non-anglos.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:27 AM on March 20, 2012


There are a lot more on the Library of Congress's Flickr stream
posted by interplanetjanet at 9:30 AM on March 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


The pics at Pavel's LJ page in the original link appear to be breaking. The page he points to at Shorpy might be more reliable.
posted by aurelian at 9:32 AM on March 20, 2012


As the citation at the top notes, these were all originally posted on Shorpy.com, which in turn takes its photos from the Library of Congress website (in some cases taking jpgs directly, in some cases taking and tweaking tiffs).

And of course, they're originally from the photographers. All the photos in the livejournal link comes from these people:
Alfred Palmer. John Vachon. Jack Delano. Howard R. Hollem (also tagged as Howard Hollem). Louise Rosskam. David Bransby. Russell Lee.

Those all link through to other photographs by the same photographers -- not necessarily Kodachrome, but all at larger resolution than on the livejournal link.

You can also plus those names into the LoC Directly, ie: photos by Alfred Palmer.
posted by cjelli at 9:40 AM on March 20, 2012 [8 favorites]


These are spectacular. Thank you for posting these.
posted by kcds at 10:05 AM on March 20, 2012


If you click the "persistent url" link below the flickr versions, you get a page on the LOC site with links full-res tiffs. These are your photos -- enjoy them in all their splendor.

I miss Kodachrome pretty badly, too. I was just figuring out what I could actually do with it when it went away.
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:13 AM on March 20, 2012


Also, yeah, the versions at the page linked in the post have been substantially "color-corrected."
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:15 AM on March 20, 2012


Stunning. That last one, the New Mexico homesteader and his wife and toddler - such quiet tragedy there.

I think because you mainly see images from that time in black and white or washed-out colour, it doesn't feel completely real somehow. It's history, static and finished, occupied by silhouettes and ghosts. But these are so vivid, the common humanity's undeniable. I could've bumped into that guy this morning, that kid could be in my daughter's school. Just an aching photo.

Thanks for posting.
posted by gompa at 10:53 AM on March 20, 2012


These are beautiful. Thank You.
posted by Slackermagee at 11:06 AM on March 20, 2012


Kodachrome!

My dad took shots on Kodachrome in WWII that look vibrant and brilliant just like these (although they lack the incredible detail of these 4x5s). It's amazing. That film was magical.

Great shots here. Thanks for the post.
posted by caddis at 11:16 AM on March 20, 2012


There are a lot more on the Library of Congress's Flickr stream

...and they were posted to MeFi twice in that context. (Once quite recently, in fact.)
posted by Sys Rq at 11:17 AM on March 20, 2012


Wow. When you're shooting 4x5s you obviously take the time to get the lighting right.
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:52 AM on March 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


...and they were posted to MeFi twice in that context. (Once quite recently, in fact.)

Jesus, let it go.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:58 AM on March 20, 2012


Jesus, let it go.

The double got a pass because it had been four years. Fair enough. I hardly think two weeks is enough to excuse a triple, however.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:11 PM on March 20, 2012


Hey! I'm Jesus!
posted by Burhanistan at 12:15 PM on March 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wow. When you're shooting 4x5s you obviously take the time to get the lighting right.

Yeah, the quality of the compositions is amazing. I mean, 4x5 is great for detail, kodachrome is great for color, but these people knew how to take pictures.
posted by Devils Rancher at 12:23 PM on March 20, 2012


I think gompa's right about there being more humanity in the color shots but the dramatic lighting and composition shots make me think of Life magazine for some reason.

Those old offices are a hoot!
posted by Ogre Lawless at 12:54 PM on March 20, 2012


Makes you think all the world's a sunny day.
Sure, that part of the song is cool, but damn if those pictures aren't brilliant as hell.

I've recently looked at some old ass Civil War pics and the clarity is unbelievable. I was looking at a photo of President Lincoln standing with a line of Generals at something like 2500x3500, and I'm absolutely gobsmacked with the resolution.

Shit, my dad took a ton of slides/pictures back in the early '70s that look incredible. This is why I want to see the Three Stooges re-released on Blu-ray. Since they shot on 35mm, the resolution is outstanding.

/resolutionFilter
posted by Sphinx at 1:36 PM on March 20, 2012


Crazy espresso maker!
posted by squalor at 1:37 PM on March 20, 2012


Would there have been contemporary projector or print technology which would have shown these photos with this degree of quality, I wonder?
posted by rongorongo at 3:49 PM on March 20, 2012


That last image, the young family that moved from West Texas to homestead in New Mexico -- they aren't worrying about dieting at all, not one bit of HFCS within sixty years of their mouths.

And that child is the youngest of their five children? That couple cannot be more than thirty. If that. Times have absolutely changed, not sure for the better or not, and not sure it matters anyways, can't turn back the calendars.

Great image, great find, great post OP.
posted by dancestoblue at 4:53 PM on March 20, 2012


That last pic is from Pietown NM, and there's a bunch more on the LOC Flickr page. I searched their account for pietown and found a whole bunch of stuff.
posted by Devils Rancher at 5:14 PM on March 20, 2012


I also was compelled by the picture of Jack Whinery and his homesteading family to try and discover more about him, and apparently we're not the only ones. Here's a blog post with some other photos from the LOC stream from Pietown, and there are some tantalizing details provided by Random People On The Internet in the comments.
posted by Made of Star Stuff at 5:55 PM on March 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


"That last image, the young family that moved from West Texas to homestead in New Mexico -- they aren't worrying about dieting at all, not one bit of HFCS within sixty years of their mouths.

And that child is the youngest of their five children? That couple cannot be more than thirty. If that. Times have absolutely changed, not sure for the better or not, and not sure it matters anyways, can't turn back the calendars."


That's an especially interesting photo to me — here's a more complete caption:
September 1940. Jack Whinery, Pie Town, New Mexico, homesteader, with his wife and the youngest of his five children in their dirt-floor dugout home. Whinery homesteaded with no cash less than a year ago and does not have much equipment; consequently he and his family farm the slow, hard way, by hand. Main window of their dugout was made from the windshield of the worn-out car which brought this family to Pie Town from West Texas. 4×5 Kodachrome transparency by Russell Lee, Farm Security Administration.
My (maternal-maternal) great-grandparents and my maternal grandmother as a child were also unsuccessful homesteaders there in the 20s-30s at nearby Quemado, which is about twenty miles west of Pie Town. They, too, came from Texas.

Well, actually, my great-grandmother moved as a child from Oklahoma to a West Texas/Panhandle area ranch belonging to her uncle after her mother died in childbirth around 1908. And there she met my great-grandfather, who was working as a cowboy. But, also, he and his brother had been recruited from their North Texas home (my great-grandfather's surname was "Denton") by my great-grandmother's uncle because the uncle was among the ranchers who fielded some of the baseball teams that eventually became part of the Texas League. My great-grandfather and his brother were working cowboys and baseball players. That's how my great-grandparents met. At some point after they married they moved back to Oklahoma, where my grandmother was born [and my great-grandmother named her "Okla Daphine Denton", of all things, but for obvious reasons she went by Daphine — I hope she doesn't haunt me because I blabbed her first name to the web...] but not too long afterwards moved here to New Mexico to homestead in Quemado. I think DD, as I called her, was about ten years-old and they were there through her sophomore year in high school. So, maybe from 1930 through 1936? They failed as farming homesteaders, as this family did during the same period (probably they knew them), and moved here to Albuquerque where my grandmother graduated from the (at that time) lone high school (now upscale downtown hipster condos). They also had a substantial bit of land here in the north valley that they grew vegetables on and they had a chicken-coop (which later became the "little house").

Anyway, Pie Town and Quemado is actually beautiful country — just at the northeastern edge of a very large mountain range, part of which became the US's first wilderness area. (Also, Pie Town is just on the south edge of the plain upon which the VLA now sits.)

But it's still relatively arid, certainly during the dustbowl era, and I'm not entirely sure why anyone thought it was a good idea for farmers to homestead in that area. Both Quemado and Pie Town are to this day tiny communities — of course rural America has been steadily depopulated in the last seventy years — but that area never had many people.

That's the one part of the state that I've not spent much time in. When I was younger and able, I hiked in all the other wilderness areas in NM, but only spent a few occasions on the outskirts of it fishing with my dad. It's kind of remote, really. That's the mountainous, forested area sprawling from NM into Arizona that had the big fires last year.

I'd like to know more about my grandmother's time in Quemado/Pie Town. She didn't really talk about her childhood very much to me, although we were otherwise very close. She was an only child. My great-grandmother was a sometimes schoolteacher, though I don't know if she taught when they were down there. I was also quite close to my great-grandmother, who was alive well into my twenties. It was she who told me stories about her childhood on her uncle's ranch (where she was treated more like domestic help than family) and about my great-grandfather. But she never talked at all about the years in Quemado, either.

It was the Depression. It's hard to imagine what people's lives were like during that time. My grandmother married a local young man, who she met when both she and he were tellers at the bank here. He was extremely ambitious and hardworking, and even without a college education, by the time he was 50 he was the CEO and President of the largest bank in the state and the CEO and President of the multi-bank, statewide holding company which owned it. They both had a profound work ethic (though she became a society lady) and a modest frugality (that was often in contrast to some of their peers) that I'm sure had its roots in the very humble origins that they both experienced.

The blog Accidental Mysteries, at which I found another copy of that Whinery photo, has a post titled "The Great Depression in Color", featuring some more photos of interest. And here are some more photos of Whinery and his family, as well as some related photos of the area in the LOC online catalog.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:19 PM on March 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


God, these are fantastic.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 10:50 AM on March 23, 2012


It's amazing how contemporary good-quality, color photography makes the people in these photos look. Like they are your friends and neighbors who have decided to take part in some sort of WWII re-enactment photography. It's hard to believe that these are my grandparents and their peers.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:59 AM on March 23, 2012


Rock Steady: "It's amazing how contemporary good-quality, color photography makes the people in these photos look."

That was my thought as well. I find that especially true of the children. The adults tend to look more like their time period the older you get (probably because of hair styles but body types/clothes as well) but the kids seem to look just the same.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 11:25 AM on March 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


they aren't worrying about dieting at all, not one bit of HFCS within sixty years of their mouths.
They are also living in a dugout home and work hard on a dirt farm everyday. I think that's probably more relevant than HFCS.
posted by smidgen at 11:51 AM on March 23, 2012


err. *worked* and *lived*... wow.. these photos really do push the past into the present don't they?
posted by smidgen at 11:51 AM on March 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


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