Monday, February 28, 2011

Changing weather - Greene County, Virginia 

Last Friday morning a warm front pushed its way over the mountains, bringing fast moving clouds mixed with bits of blue sky and sun. Light and shadow played in the distance, briefly illuminating mountain ridge and valley. For about thirty minutes the sky over the Blue Ridge was a constantly changing show and I stood on the front deck and took picture after picture of the wonderful scene. As is usual, when I got the pictures loaded in the computer and reviewed them on screen, there were only one or two that even came close to expressing what I saw. But picture or no picture, I am glad I spent the time looking. It made my day.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Rural crossroads - Greene County, Virginia 

Fireside Reading

As a boy, I spent a lot of time outdoors. I camped out in the woods and explored the fields and waterways near my home. I hunted and fished. And whenever I could afford the 35 cents, I bought and read Field & Stream magazine.

From 1953 to 1961, Robert Ruark wrote a column each month in Field & Stream, and many of these stories were collected in the book The Old Man and the Boy. I came across this book recently, and read again the stories that I had read many years ago. The stories had faded from my memory, but I remembered Ruark's unique voice.

Robert Ruark grew up in eastern North Carolina during the depression, in a time and a place where hunting and fishing and the outdoors defined a way of life. It is a way of life that I was not destined to live, but The Old Man and the Boy brought back to me, an old man reading in front of the fire, an echo of the passion that I felt as a boy for God's wonderful creation.

The drawing above is by Walter Dower, whose nostalgic and graceful line drawings illustrate the book.
The Old Man and the Boy by Robert Ruark - Henry Holt and Company 1993

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Antiques - Ruckersville, Virginia

Web Notes

Tim Barnwell is a photographer you should know. On In This Light, Dory Adams has a nice article about Tim Barnwell including the details of his recently announced Print of the Month program. Dory writes about the first print being offered:
"Barnwell's image 'Waves of Trees in Snow, 2009' evokes a strong emotional response for me: homesickness for how it feels to live nestled in the mountains; amazement at the pristine beauty; concern that this beauty will be lost; and admiration for Barnwell's artistry."

When I equipped my first darkroom, I never dreamed that it would be replaced one day by a computer.  Like it or not, the computer is an integral part of our lives, and for most photographers the computer is a key component of the photographic process. Click! A Brief History of Computing is a LIFE magazine picture gallery showing the history of computers in photographs. Somewhat ironically, the majority of these pictures were made before the computer had any connection with photography.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Friday, February 18, 2011

General view of Sarasota trailer park alongside baseball park, Sarasota, Florida 
Marion Post Wolcott, 1941

A Friday Miscellany
Pitchers and catchers are reporting to spring training this week. It felt a bit like spring here in Charlottesville today with temperatures reaching the low seventies. Baseball and Spring are right around the corner. Opening day is six weeks from today.
Over on The Photographers' Railroad Page, Kevin Scanlon tells about his first trip to West Virginia to photograph trains and how that experience led him to a more focused pursuit of photography. Kevin writes, "West Virginia has become a foundation and an inspiration for my photography since that first visit. And I'm happy for the sudden realization that occurred those 37 years ago, looking into the sunrise at Hawks Nest, that I needed to narrow my viewpoint in order to see more." Read the whole thing here.
Readers often arrive at Photography In Place by way of Google or other search services and it is interesting and sometimes amusing to see the search terms that brought them here.  Earlier this week, a visitor found us while searching for "do you see more alligators laying on banks in the morning or afternoon?"  I hope this person found the answer, but I am afraid that Photography In Place was no help at all.
The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs department performs a valuable service cataloging and preserving historic photographs. Among the library's extensive holdings are the archives of the Farm Security Administration, which employed photographers such as Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, Marion Post Wolcott, Russell Lee and many others to record the life of America during the depression era.

The photo of the train depot at Edwards, Mississippi by Walker Evans in this earlier post was from a scan of the original negative available on the Library of Congress website. A large portion of the 171,000 black and white negatives in the FSA collection have been digitized and are available online. There are many excellent high-resolution scans, but this particular Evans photograph was available only as a low-resolution scan, and it does not do Evans justice. There is an excellent reproduction of this photograph on pages 98 and 99 of the book Walker Evans: Lyric Documentary (Steidl, 2006).

Photo by Marion Post Wolcott, Library of Congress LC-USF34- 057041-D [P&P]

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Walker Evans - Main Street storefronts, Edwards, Mississippi - 1936

In the early Spring of 1936, Walker Evans was in Mississippi photographing for the Farm Security Administration. These two pictures were taken in the town of Edwards, about 15 miles east of Vicksburg in February and March of that year.

I believe the picture below was taken from the wooden bridge over the tracks in Edwards (see yesterday's post below) looking to the west. The railroad depot and other buildings to the right of the tracks are no longer standing. The storefronts in the picture  above would be out of the frame on the left, facing the tracks. The sidings have been taken up and a single track still  carries freight trains through the town.

Walker Evans - View of railroad station, Edwards, Mississippi - 1936

This picture of the railroad depot was included in the expanded section of photographs in the 1960 edition of Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. Both photos are courtesy of the Library of Congress.

StorefrontsLC-USF342- 001295-A [P&P]
Railroad station -  LC-USF342- 001295-A [P&P]

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Dixon's - Edwards, Mississippi

Several scenes for the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou were filmed in and around Edwards, including the very last scene in the movie. Some movie magic is involved as the characters walk down the street in this scene. The first buildings they pass do not exist in Edwards but when they reach the building with the Dixon's sign, pictured above as it appeared in 2007, they are in Edwards and the rest of the movie takes place in town.

The old wooden bridge over the railroad tracks in the center background of the movie's final shot (filmed in 1999) was torn down in 2006 and replaced with a new bridge. When I took the picture below in 2007, construction of the new bridge was almost complete. To the right of bridge is the Queen Anne style Alonso James Lewis house, which was built around 1895 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Water Tower - Edwards, Mississippi

Edwards began as a plantation settlement which became known as Edwards Depot when the Alabama and Vicksburg Railroad came in 1839. The depot was burned in 1863 by the Union army. The present town of Edwards was incorporated in 1871. Freight trains still pass through, but no longer stop.

In December 2007 I spent a winter's afternoon in Edwards. There was not a cloud in the sky and the winter sun was bright. This week we will look at a couple of pictures taken in Edwards by Walker Evans in 1936 as well as some of the photos I took on that quiet Sunday.

Kansas City Southern Freight on the outskirts of Edwards, Mississippi

Friday, February 11, 2011

American Queen at Vicksburg, Mississippi 

While looking for the picture of Margaret's Grocery that I posted yesterday, I came across these pictures of the American Queen, which is thought to be the largest steamboat ever built. These photos were taken in December, 2007 on the Vicksburg waterfront.

According to, the American Queen was taken out of service in 2008 and is now in Beaumont Texas facing an uncertain future.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Margaret's Grocery - Vicksburg, Mississippi 

Over on Urban Decay, Andy Morang has just posted pictures and an article about Margaret's Grocery, which is something of a landmark in Vicksburg, Mississippi. Andy has a number of pictures taken in the 1980s and 1990's that show an ordinary country store transformed into a work of folk art. Read the story here.

I took the picture above while visiting Vicksburg in December 2007.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Cabin beside the tracks - Durbin, West Virginia 

The Appalachian Mountains have a rich and colorful history. Appalachian History is a blog devoted to telling the story of the inhabitants of Appalachia in anecdotes and stories, with an emphasis on the depression era. The story is told through interviews, brief memoirs and letters, all in the voice of the people who lived in the region. A new episode of The Appalachian Weekly History podcast is posted every Sunday, and pictures and articles appear throughout the week. I have added Appalachian History to the permanent links in the sidebar.

The picture above was taken from aboard the Durbin Rocket, near Durbin, West Virginia.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Monday, February 7, 2011

Small building collapsing in the field - Greene County, Virginia

This building stands by itself near a dirt country road. The back of the building has been pushed off or has fallen off its foundation and collapse seems imminent. The purpose of the building is unclear to me; based on the size and proximity to the road I think it may have been a milk house. But notice the construction. Board and batten construction is not uncommon in this area, but look at the well made cornice returns. Whoever built this building invested a fair amount of workmanship in its construction. It is sad to see that work in ruin.
"The things we inherit from the past remind us that the men who made them were like us and give us a tangible link with them This is a thought to set off against the knowledge that life is short. Hitherto it has been inconceivable that any one generation should discard all the equipment it has inherited and replace it completely. That may yet become possible. Even if it does, it will still be imperative for each generation deliberately to make some of its equipment so that it lasts and survives its makers.

" . . . age and wear diversify the surfaces of things in ways that nothing else will. If nothing ever lasted we should be denied that beauty."
from The Nature and Art of Workmanship by David Pye, Cambridge University Press, 1968

Friday, February 4, 2011

Climax Mfg. Company - The Durbin Rocket - Durbin, West Virginia 

While in Durbin (see yesterday's post) I struck up a conversation with the engineer of the Durbin Rocket. He invited me into the locomotive's cab to take pictures, but unfortunately, none of them came out well enough to show. Pictures or no pictures, I was happy to have the opportunity to be in the cab of a steam locomotive.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Durbin Rocket - Durbin, West Virginia 

The smell of burning coal greeted us as we neared the town of Durbin. For me it was a nostalgic smell. My grandparents on both sides of the family heated their house with a coal fired furnace. My grandsons, who were with me to ride the Durbin Rocket, experienced the smell of coal for the first time that day and got to ride behind one of the few remaining steam locomotives in America.

Built in 1910 for use in the logging industry, the locomotive that powers the Durbin Rocket is one of three Climax geared engines still in operation.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Groundhog day - Greene County, Virginia

"Everybody talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it." - Mark Twain

With all the sophisticated technology at our disposal in 2011, we still can't do much about the weather. We can't even forecast it with any precision.

Yet we love to talk about the weather. Nearly every casual conversation eventually gets to the weather. We listen to weather reports on TV and radio. There is a TV channel dedicated to weather, 24 hours a day.

The forecast for the next six weeks will be based on satellite images, computer models, Doppler radar and groundhog shadows.

Happy Groundhog Day

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Tower C - Seashore Trolley Museum - Kennebunkport, Maine 

A couple of years ago I visited the Seashore Trolley Museum. I was getting ready to take a picture of the old inter-locking tower when I spotted this gentleman, dressed as a conductor or ticket-agent walking toward me. I was waiting for him to walk into the frame so I could include him in the picture, but he sees me with the camera, calls out "excuse me" and starts running to get out of my way. I just barely had time to get the shot before he was gone.

Northhampton Station