Evans and the FSA sound a more somber note in the photograph of the
railroad station at the right. While Stryker's FSA called America to
move out of the cultural hold of slavery, not all of the past was worth
forgetting, or even changing. Small town life, it seemed, was
disappearing forever, and as the once quiet Mississippi streets filled
up with noisy cars and tall buildings, Stryker became mournful. He
remarked upon Evans' photo above:
I remember Walker Evans' picture of the train tracks in a small town, like Montrose [his hometown in Colorado]. The empty station platform, the station thermometer, the idle baggage cars, the quiet stores, the people talking together, and beyond them, the weather-beaten houses where they lived, all this reminded me of the town where I had grown up. I would look at pictures like that and long for a time when the world was safer and more peaceful. I'd think back to the days before radio and television when all there was to do was go down to the tracks and watch the flyer go through. That was the nostalgic way in which those town pictures hit me (qtd. in Brannan & Fleischhauer 59).
Railroad station, Walker Evans, Edwards, Mississippi.
Picking cotton, Marion Post Wolcott, Mileston Plantation, Mississippi
The photographs of the FSA defy easy classification, as we are again reminded by Wolcott's photograph to the left. One of the most repeated--and moving--images in the FSA file is a close-up view of beaten workers' hands. In providing a photograph of a Mississippi cotton-picker, Wolcott adds a particularly haunting image. Like many in the collection, the photograph features a certain timelessness. It could have come from any age, and much of its resonance comes from how closely associated it is with Mississippi's slavery past. The image of the cotton picker is not accidental but carries with it an almost unrivaled amount of cultural capital. Not much, the weather-beaten hands remind the viewer, has changed in the past 70 years for Mississippi blacks. What, they demand, are you going to do?|
The particular sub-regional identity of the three pictures on this page complements the three areas previously discussed, as the unique local environment outlined by each create some sort of composite image of the region known as the South. But how, if at all, does the diverse array of images combine to form a coherent whole? Furthermore, how do these images team with those of the Midwest migrant worker and the Northern laborer to produce any kind of true American? The answer is simpler than you might imagine.
|Intro||Stryker and the FSA||Documentary Photography as a Medium||Local vs. National||Blue Ridge Mountains||Southern Florida||Central Alabama||Mississippi Delta||Conclusion|