November 27, 2011

Omaha, Nebraska, November 1938 by John Vachon

I spent a cold November week in Omaha and walked a hundred miles. Was it Kearney Street where unemployed men sat all day on the steps of cheap hotels? A tattoo parlor, and the city mission with its soup kitchen. Men hanging around the stockyards. One morning I photographed a grain elevator: pure sun-brushed silo columns of cement rising from behind CB&Q freight car. The genius of Walker Evans and Charles Sheeler welded into one supreme photographic statement, I told myself. Then it occurred to me that it was I who was looking at the grain elevator. For the past year I had been sedulously aping the masters. And in Omaha I realized that I had developed my own style with the camera. I knew that I would photograph only what pleased me or astonished my eye, and only in the way I saw it.
John F. Vachon (May 19, 1914 – April 20, 1975) was an American photographer. He worked as a filing clerk for the Farm Security Administration before Roy Stryker recruited him to join a small group of photographers, including Esther Bubley, Marjory Collins, Mary Post Wolcott, Jack Delano, Arthur Rothstein, Walker Evans, Russell Lee, Gordon Parks, Charlotte Brooks, Carl Mydans, Dorothea Lange and Ben Shahn, who were employed to publicize the conditions of the rural poor in America.

Cars and parking meters

Nebraska is the white spot of the nation

Danbaum armored car

On a streetcar

Unemployed men who ride the freight trains from Omaha to Kansas City and St. Louis and back

High school student's car

In the wholesale district

Boxcar and grain elevators

At the Armistice Day parade


Oak bar from a more prosperous era

Flophouse on lower Douglas Street

Saloon in the stockyard district

Blind beggar

Restaurant sign
[Wikipedia, via FSA-OWI Photos]


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