Friday, August 14, 2009

Inspirations #12: Walker Evans and Eleven:Fourteen

Tin Building, Moundville, AL, 1936 by Walker Evans

I remember the first time I saw this image at the Witkin Gallery in New York back in the Early 1980s. The tones and unending vertical lines mesmerized me. I wish I had the few hundred dollars it cost to buy an original (not Library of Congress) print back then, but fresh out of college equals fresh out of money!

Walker Evans did a substantial amount of work in Moundville, Alabama back in 1936 for the Farm Security Administration enacted by FDR during the Great Depression. There are so many great photographs from this town it would be interesting to go back and see what it is like now. It would be even better if the current administration would fund it, but of course, they find it more important to spend unGodly amounts of money elsewhere.

William Christenberry did just that in the 1960s through the 1980s. He grew up near the area and became fascinated and inspired by Evans' work capturing the "ordinary" scenes in rural Alabama. This work eventually became a traveling exhibit, a book, Of Time & Place, and even was interpreted by Christenberry as sculpture. If you can find the book, published by the Friends of Photography, pick one up - it's a good read. I have a copy in my library.

Rick's Hitch Works, Phoenix, AZ, 2009 by Richard M. Coda

On many of my Sunday morning photo jaunts I would pass this place on Van Buren Ave. at 20th Street in Phoenix. Unfortunately, behind chain link fence, barbed wire and dogs, this place was never open. In late May 2008 the light was perfect... the sun was in front of the building and early in the morning it raked across the corrugated aluminum facade perfectly. I desperately tried calling to see if I could get permission to photograph the building, but no one ever answered or returned my message. I marked it down in my calendar to try again in one year, May 2009.

I happened to be in the area on a Saturday after I dropped my daughter off at her art class and noticed that the gate was opened. I had the cameras and I was ready. I went in where it says "Office". There was nothing but junk in there. I came out and went into one of the other businesses that share the parking lot. There was this old guy sitting at a computer, smoking a cigar and surrounded by dogs. I asked him nicely if I could photograph the building, explaining my big cameras and all. He wondered why I would want to take a photograph of that "old thing". He mentioned they had been thinking of tearing it down to make more room. Thankfully, he allowed me to photograph it.

I used the 11x14" camera on this and the contact print is just beautiful with creamy light tones and the beautiful vertical shadows. I am very happy I was able to make this image before Rick's disappears into history, just as Moundville has.

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