Reminds me of the 1930s

St Marys MO 9No, despite what some folks think, I wasn’t around then, but, thanks to the photographers from the Farm Security Administration, we know what the country looked like during the Depression and the Dust Bowl days.

I opened an envelope labeled “St Mary,” thinking I would find the church and school located on Sprigg Street. Much to my surprise, I found images of the notorious speed trap located between Perryville and St. Genevieve on Hwy 61. My best guess is that it was taken in 1966, but it looks like something from 30 or 35 years earlier. Click on the picture to make it larger. I can make out the name “Clem’s” on the sign, but the rest isn’t readable. What I find striking in these days of digital photography where you bang off hundreds of photos without thinking is that I thought the subject worthy of only one shot.

I’m going to hold off publishing most of the pictures until I can shoot contemporary photos on my next trip to or from St. Louis at the end of January.

I’ve tried to emulate the FSA photographers

This image jumped out at me, though, as something that could have been taken by one of the 22 FSA photographers working for Roy Styker between 1935 and 1944. I grew up trying to emulate photographers like Gordon Parks, Dorothea Lang, Walker Evans and Arthur Rothstein. If the names don’t mean anything to you, check Google images for some American icons.

In looking for that, I stumbled across a catalog of images available from the Library of Congress. Some of the topic include Wright Brothers Negatives; Popular Graphic Arts, World War I and Spanish American War Posters; 2100 Baseball cards from 1887 to 1914, and Civil War Glass Negatives and Related Prints.

7 Replies to “Reminds me of the 1930s”

  1. This is a good example of available technology determining a special aura of photographs from different eras. I somehow doubt even our Nikon Fs could have repeated this photo. The chemistry, silver and manufacturing methods made that era special, as it has earlier and later eras. I like that about photography. Like painting, it changes with the tools available.

    I suppose you will take what I’ve said on as a challenge and reproduce this photograph with your digital equipment. I hope so.

    1. Based on other photos on that roll, I’m pretty sure I can find the same vantage point, but I don’t think the scene will be the same. The floods of 1973, 1993 and 2011 have taken their toll on the town.

      I’m not so sure you couldn’t shoot that photograph with a digital camera. I think it was a quality of light thing rather than the recording medium. The biggest difference is that I would be thinking in terms of color and not monochromatic tonality is I shot it today.

  2. Ken,

    Are you aware that the FSA images can be searched county by county? I discovered that after running across some images of professional wrestling at one of the Sikeston venues in a book and then trying to track down through the Library of Congress as to how the images were geographically catalogued. Not only can one search that simply, but copies can be ordered from the LOC. Obviously, some counties were skipped as there are no images listed for Cape Girardeau County, but Scott county has dozens.

  3. Ken, that photo is the kind of photo a model railroad dies for; all of the detail in the scene can be reproduced but you have to have the image to create the most real scene. A lot of what is there is hard to imagine without a real image. Great shot.

      1. The seawall had already gone up by the time I was doing any serious shooting. I may have some aerials that peek over the wall. I’ll also look through some stuff my dad shot.

        I’m going to be in Cape most of February in case you get this way.

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