“A lot of them didn’t even have any family photos. So if I took a picture of someone, I made every effort to give it back to them, and I think that’s how I earned their trust and really got to know them.” ~ Oraien Catledge, photographer

Stumbled upon these amazing photographs on my tumblr dash and initially thought they were photographs from the WPA during the Great Depression. They have that Dorothea Lange feel. Such an incredible story, wanted to share:

                   

” . . . it just wasn’t the same Cabbagetown that it was. It disappeared. Where did it go?” ~ Oraien Catledge

From a 2009 article by Chad Radford:

Photographer Oraien Catledge remembers Cabbagetown

Oraien Catledge first stumbled upon Cabbagetown while sitting on his couch one evening in the fall of 1978. He was flipping through the local news channels when he came across a town meeting in which citizens were discussing the fate of their community. The nearly 100-year-old Fulton Bag and Cotton Mills had closed their doors for the last time, and a lot of the locals – vestiges of an honest-to-goodness factory town that stood in the mills’ shadows – were destitute. Many of the people living in Cabbagetown in the late ’70s were direct descendents of the laborers imported from Appalachia to work at the mills since their construction in 1881. But much of the property would soon be up for sale to the rest of the city, and it seemed that the tight-knit community would unravel. “As they used to say, that was preee-sactly the moment that I learned about Cabbagetown,” Catledge chuckles through a bushy, snowy white mustache.

Catledge, 81, is an Oxford, Miss., native who moved to Atlanta in 1969 while working as a regional consultant for the American Association for the Blind. “I wasn’t a photographer back then and I knew nothing about photography, but I had an urge to do something creative,” he says. “I tried painting but the canvases just wouldn’t dry fast enough, so I went out and I got a camera.”

Catledge is legally blind, but dismisses his condition as a disadvantage. In a soft, grandfatherly voice, he says, “Oh … I can see a lot better than most people think I can.”

Soon after seeing the televised town meeting, Catledge set out in search of Cabbagetown, camera in hand, and by 1980 was documenting the fast-disappearing community. Over the next 20 years, he spent many of his weekends and free moments in the impoverished neighborhood, photographing the people, faces, and mostly the children, living in the crumbling houses and buildings.

The resulting body of work is a collection of approximately 50,000 negatives. The images present accidental landscapes disguised as portraits, as scene after scene of children and adults personifies the dilapidated surroundings. These stark black-and-white and rich sepia-toned photos are imbued with a quality that transcends time, capturing an era that feels much further away than the late ’70s and early ’80s. Much like Dorothea Lange’s Dust Bowl photos or Walker Evans’ Great Depression imagery, Catledge’s photographs embody the suffering and celebrations of a poor, undereducated white haven on the brink of disappearance.

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“Pick a theme and work it to exhaustion . . . the subject must be something you truly love or truly hate.” ~ Dorothea Lange

crashinglybeautiful:Bad Trouble over the WeekendI am trying here to say somethingabout the despised, the defeated,the alienated.About death and disaster.About the wounded, the crippled,the helpless, the rootless,the dislocated.About duress and trouble.About finality.About the last ditch.—Dorothea LangePhoto by Dorothea Lange, Last Ditch series, 1964. Thank you, melisaki.

 

Bad Trouble over the Weekend

I am trying here to say something
about the despised, the defeated,
the alienated. About death and disaster.
About the wounded, the crippled,
the helpless, the rootless,
the dislocated.
About duress and trouble.
About finality.
About the last ditch.

~ Dorothea Lange

Photo by Dorothea Lange, Last Ditch series, 1964

from crashinglybeautiful

“Veritum dies aperit” (Time discovers the truth) ~ Seneca

Staying Put Zink Arkansas 1935 by Ben Shahn

One of the few remaining inhabitants of Zinc, Arkansas, October 1935 by Ben Shahn

Time does not change us. It just unfolds us.” ~ Max Frisch

“Time stays long enough for anyone who will use it.” ~ Leonardo da Vinci

I think that Corey took a smartass pill when he woke up today. He’s showing all of the classic signs. I could tell that it was going to rain as soon as I woke up because I had  a sinus headache. When I commented that everytime the barometric pressure drops, I get a headache, Corey replied, “Aren’t you glad that you are so in tune with mother nature?” Funny. Very funny.

My husband the wit.

So Izzie the Trooper is going to be coming home tomorrow. We still need to buy a new battery and a spare tire before our trip to Ohio. I’m not driving through the mountains of West Virginia without a spare tire. Not with our luck. But once the Trooper comes home, I plan to try to clean her insides top to bottom, rid of her of the tobacco atoms that are clinging to everything. Of course, once Eamonn starts driving her again, it will all be for naught, but until that time, she’s still mine, and I want her to smell clean, even if it means that I Febreze the hell out of her.

Itenerand photographer in Columbus OH by Ben Shahn 1938
Itinerant Photographer in Columbus, OH, by Ben Shahn (1938)

We haven’t been able to make the trip to Ohio in years, mostly because of my back problems. This will be the first time that I have been on such a long car journey. I’m hoping for the best, but if I arrive shaped like a pretzel, I won’t be surprised. The trip is to celebrate Corey’s dad’s birthday, and our arrival is supposed to be a surprise. The whole family is going to Indian Lake.

Corey took us to Indian Lake one year when the boys were still relatively young. Corey and the boys rented a paddle boat and went all around the lake. I sat on a blanket in the sun and read a book. Everyone was happy. But I’m pretty sure that we ran out of gas either to or from the lake. That was when we owned the big gnarly Buick that I hated, and if I remember correctly, Corey ran out of gas with that car more than once.

He still does that—runs out of gas—only not as frequently. He also gets lost, but won’t admit it. Don’t ask me why he does these things. It’s just one of those Corey things. The first time that he did it with the boys in the car, they were young, and they became very anxious. They kept asking us if we were in a bad part of town. We were somewhere in Richmond on our way to Ohio. Eamonn had obviously learned the term “bad part of town” from somewhere, so I explained to him that being out of gas and lost is always a bad part of town.

One of these days I’m going to be able to afford a Magellan for Corey, which will at least take care of the getting lost part.

Oh well. Not really what my subject is today.

“Time is not a reality (hypostasis), but a concept (noêma) or a measure (metron).” ~ Antiphon from On Truth

A few months back David Bridger, one of the writers who I visit frequently, posed a question on his blog: If you could go back in time, where would you go? Who would you see? What would you do? Good idea for a post David (who is busy working on his book, preparing for two fall weddings, and taking care of wife Janette: Hello to everyone).

I’ve kept that post in the back of my mind for a while now without tackling it because my answer (of course) wouldn’t be just one point in time. I have managed to narrow it to three different points in time: the Renaissance, the Great Depression, and France during WWII, all for very different reasons.

The Tudfors S3 Henry
The Tudors (season 3) Jonathan Rhys-Davies as Henry VIII

Being a writer and a lover of great literature, the Renaissance is probably the most predictable answer for me. Granted, the Renaissance is a pretty broad time period, beginning after the Middle Ages and ending with the Reformation (approximately 1450 to 1600). However, the time in which I would be most interested would be during the Elizabethan period of literature, during which writers such as Shakespeare, Marlowe, Donne, and Spenser were prolific.

Granted, living conditions in Tudor England would be a tad hard to adapt to, what with chamber pots being emptied out of windows and a lack of a central drainage system. Threats of the plague might put a damper on things; although drinking ale for breakfast as opposed to a hot cup of tea would be interesting, if not an engaging way in which to begin the day.

Obviously, life would not be a brilliant pageant of color and intrigue like Showtime’s The Tudors (alas, alack), which, by the way, I am not enjoying as much in Season 3 as in previous seasons. Probably the lack of spark provided by Natalie Dormer as Anne Boleyn.

But as usual, I digress . . .

My real interest in looking in on Elizabethan England would lie in the relationship between Shakespeare and Marlowe. Did Shakespeare actually steal from Marlowe? Was Marlowe as prolific as Shakespeare? Could Marlowe have been the better playwright if he had lived longer? Actually, conspiracy theorists about the Bard contend that Shakespeare’s works could have been written by Sir Francis Bacon, Ben Jonson, and Edward de Vere. Why such a reluctance to attribute to Shakespeare that which is Shakespeare’s?

Who knows? But it would be wonderful to go back in time to see the literary masters at work, to look over Shakespeare’s shoulder as he created his own version of Richard III. To visit with the man who created Falstaff.

“It is one thing to photograph people. It is another to make others care about them by revealing the core of their humanness.” ~ Paul Strand

Fiddlin Bill Hensley Asheville NC by Ben Shahn
Fiddlin' Bill Hensley, Asheville, NC, by Ben Shahn

Another time that I would like to visit would be the Great Depression, specifically that period during which Roosevelt’s photographers for the WPA were in service.

The WPA was the Works Progress Administration, a government-funded program for artists during the mid 1930’s to mid 1940’s. Artists who received funding during the WPA included Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock. Among the writers of the Federal Writers’ Project were Zora Neale Hurston, John Steinbeck, and Claude McKay. But my interest lies with the photographers, people like Dorothea Lange, Ben Shahn, and Walker Evans, the individuals who created an enduring photographic record of a period in American history during the artistic period known as social realism.

I am in awe of these masters of the genre who took the art of photography to new heights with their achingly real depictions of people and places. Personally, I have never been very good at capturing the essence of a person in a photograph, which is why I tend to stay with nature and architecture. I believe that it takes an artist with great insight to be able to capture that moment of greatest personal revelation on film, and I know of none better than Lange, Evans and Shahn.

Of her famous picture of the migrant mother, Lange had this to say in an interview in 1960:

I saw and approached the hungry and desperate mother, as if drawn by a magnet. I do not remember how I explained my presence or my camera to her, but I do remember she asked me no questions. I made five exposures, working closer and closer from the same direction. I did not ask her name or her history. She told me her age, that she was thirty-two. She said that they had been living on frozen vegetables from the surrounding fields, and birds that the children killed. She had just sold the tires from her car to buy food. There she sat in that lean-to tent with her children huddled around her, and seemed to know that my pictures might help her, and so she helped me. There was a sort of equality about it. (From Popular Photography, Feb. 1960).

The photographers worked for the WPA for about $23 a week as starting wages. Many felt fortunate to be able to plie their trade in a period in which so few had any meaningful work. But as the Library of Congress collection reveals, what may have begun as merely a way to make a living became an intense affinity for the American people, a record of their hardships, sorrows, and sometimes, their small celebrations.

So while a journey back to one of the most painful periods in our country’s history may seem like a bizarre choice, being able to watch these artists, perhaps even to emulate them would be an amazing opportunity.

“Le jour de gloire est arrivé !” ~ La Marseillaise

My last choice probably seems like the oddest of the three: France during WWII.

I do not view World War II as a particularly wonderful time in history. On the contrary. However, I would like to think that if I were living in France during this dark period in history that I would have participated in the French Resistance movement.

French Resistance Croix de Lorraine symbol
Croix de Lorraine, Symbol of French Resistance

Essentially, there were two main movements. The Conseil National de la Résistance or the National Council of the Resistance was created by John Moulin. The CNR directed and coordinated the different movements of the French Resistance: the press, trade unions, and members of political parties hostile to the Vichy France. Eventually, the CNR  coordinated with the Free French Forces, led by Charles De Gaulle

The French resistance included men, women and children from all social classes, religions, and political movements who worked against the Nazi occupation in France. Although the Resistance was responsible for blowing up key targets, members also published underground newspapers, helped Allied soldiers to freedom, collected and disseminated military intelligence, and raising awareness among the French populace.

Even though women were not allowed many leadership roles in the Resistance, I still think that it would have been admirable to work on one of the underground presses, churning out anti-Nazi propaganda. It’s that anti-establishment streak that runs through my veins, not a glorification of the Resistance that has been depicted in so many movies that makes me think that I could have participated in such a movement. Doing something, standing up for your beliefs.

“Come on and cry me a river, cry me a river” ~ From “Cry Me a River,” by Arthur Hamilton 

Other notable eras of which I wish I could have played a part: The era of great torch singers (Etta James, Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday, Lena Horne ). Oh those bluesy, unrequited love songs, like “Can’t Help Loving That Man of Mine” and how they just rip at the very fabric of the heart. Other eras that I wouldn’t mind visiting would be the age of the emerging confessional poets (Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath, Adrienne Rich) , as well as Europe during the Impressionistic period in art—Van Gogh, Cézanne, Monet, Gaugin—all of that angst amidst all of that beauty.

For now, I’m sitting here in 2009, with my old soul and my dreams of other days.

 

 

More later. Peace.

You Know It’s Bad Because I’m Speechless

cracks-in-the-rose-colored-glasses

Cracks in the Rose-Colored Glasses

Corey came home from the maritime school today totally downhearted. He had to withdraw from the AB class in which he was enrolled because of our SNAFU with the IRS. Then he went to the union to turn in his application, and the guy who talked to him said that he would only be qualified as a beginner.

Imagine how it would feel if you have piloted tug boats on your own, you hold a 200 ton Master’s license, and because you don’t have an AB (able-bodied seaman) qualification, someone wants to put you in with a group of people who have never worked on a boat in their lives. It’s insulting, to say the very least.

At the moment, he is sleeping. It’s 5:30 in the afternoon, and Corey only naps when he doesn’t feel well and when he is really depressed. Today, it’s both.

I feel so utterly helpless because there is nothing that I can do for him. If I had something of value to sell to get the money for his tuition, I would do it without a backward glance. But I do not possess valuable things. The most valuable things I have are my wedding and engagement rings, and I know from previous experience that I would not get very much for either one. Their value lies in the sentiment.

I despise feeling helpless. I am angry at the world. And Eamonn is coming to me telling me about all of the things that he needs as a senior: his senior dues, his prom fees, his yearbook. We still haven’t finished paying for his senior pictures. We agreed to help with his senior dues when we thought that we were going to have a little bit of tax money leftover. I know that this is one of the most exciting times in his life, yet my answer to him is the same as it’s been throughout all of last year and into this year: We’ll have to see.

He has been saving money of his own, but working one or two shifts a week at minimum wage isn’t really giving him that much to set aside. And I cannot allow him to work more because he is not good at balancing school and work, and frankly, school and getting him to graduate are much more important.

You want to know the irony of the whole situation? We went to the City of Norfolk to see if we could get assistace with our water bill. They have a program specifically tailored to help people with water bills. However, we make too much money. Too much money? By whose standards? Certainly not AIG standards. We didn’t want to apply in the first place, not because we are embarrassed, but because of that whole concept of being able to take care of yourself, your family.

dorothea-lange-great-depression2
Dorothea Lange's Famous "Migrant Mother" From The Great Depression

Hard work brings its rewards: that Puritan work ethic in which we happen to believe. You know, that if you work hard, are honest and work within the system, then things will work out for you. I’ve worked since I was 15. I have been putting my share into the coffers for a long time now. Corey has worked since he was a teenager; he served his country. Something is wrong here.

But I cannot even begin to put a finger on all of the things that are wrong with this situation. Drug dealers drive around in fancy cars, wear the best clothes, want for nothing. People involved in organized crime have their own definitions of family and being taken care of. Wall Street gives out bonuses in the 8 figures. My son just wants to go to his senior prom. What’s wrong with this picture?

I mean, I’m thankful that we aren’t at the poverty level. Truly. I have a real appreciation for all that we do have and am aware that compared to so many Americans today, we are ironically in an enviable position. But the message in this is that too many people are doing without while a select few are doing really well.

I appreciate the fact that we have food and shelter. But my health insurance premium is killing us. It really makes me want to see nationalized health care. And don’t give me the argument that nationalized health care is the country’s first step into socialism. Too many democratic societies have nationalized health care, which disproves that big fallacy. If we weren’t shelling out so much for my stupid insurance, which I cannot live without, we might be in better shape. But as it is, we have no options.

No options. That phrase is unbearable to me for so many reasons.

I sent an e-mail to the White House today. Not that I think that anything will really come of it, but it just felt good to get some things off my chest. You see, I believe that you can support an administration and still exercise your basic First Amendment Freedoms. Maybe I’m wearing rose-colored glasses when I allow myself to think that things in this country will get better; my only fear is that we will sink before things get better.

Peace.

                                                                                                      

I thought that I would share a little poetry today as it always helps me when I am depressed, angry, or anxious (and I am all three today). And since I don’t have one of my own that fits my particular mood, I am going to borrow from one of my favorite poets.

The following pantoum is by Donald Justice. A pantoum is a type of highly stylized poem, like the villanelle. In a pantoum, which is written in quatrains, the second and fourth lines of a stanza become the first and third lines of the following stanza.

Pantoum of the Great Depression

Our lives avoided tragedy
Simply by going on and on,
Without end and with little apparent meaning.
Oh, there were storms and small catastrophes.

Simply by going on and on
We managed. No need for the heroic.
Oh, there were storms and small catastrophes.
I don’t remember all the particulars.

We managed. No need for the heroic.
There were the usual celebrations, the usual sorrows.
I don’t remember all the particulars.
Across the fence, the neighbors were our chorus.

There were the usual celebrations, the usual sorrows
Thank god no one said anything in verse.
The neighbors were our only chorus,
And if we suffered we kept quiet about it.

At no time did anyone say anything in verse.
It was the ordinary pities and fears consumed us,
And if we suffered we kept quiet about it.
No audience would ever know our story.

It was the ordinary pities and fears consumed us.
We gathered on porches; the moon rose; we were poor.
What audience would ever know our story?
Beyond our windows shone the actual world.

We gathered on porches; the moon rose; we were poor.
And time went by, drawn by slow horses.
Somewhere beyond our windows shone the world.
The Great Depression had entered our souls like fog.

And time went by, drawn by slow horses.
We did not ourselves know what the end was.
The Great Depression had entered our souls like fog.
We had our flaws, perhaps a few private virtues.

But we did not ourselves know what the end was.
People like us simply go on.
We have our flaws, perhaps a few private virtues,
But it is by blind chance only that we escape tragedy.

And there is no plot in that; it is devoid of poetry.

Donald Justice, October 1962

“Imagination is More Important Than Knowledge” ~ Albert Einstein

“The most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is comprehensible.” – A. Einstein

“The eternal mystery of the world is its comprehensibility.” – A. Einstein

leonardo-da-vinci-golden-rectangle
Mona Lisa as Golden Ratio

I have always wished that I could appreciate the beauty of pure mathematics in the same way that brilliant mathematicians and physicists do. Truly. I was reminded of this last night when I watched a special on one of my lifelong heroes, Albert Einstein.

For people like Einstein, mathematics is art. Numbers on a page are akin to Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa.” In fact, the “Mona Lisa,” was painted based on a mathematical premise known as the Golden Ratio:

The Golden Ratio, also known as the Golden Number or the Golden Section, is defined as the ratio of the lengths of the two sides of any Golden Rectangle. That is, if you take a Golden Rectangle and divide the length by the height, you will have the Golden Ratio. Traditionally, mathematicians have denoted the Golden Ratio by the Greek letter phi (φ). (http://library.thinkquest.org/27890/goldenRatio2.html)

Leonardo da Vinci is regarded as a Renaissance man because of his integration of art and science. He is not only famous for his paintings and sculpture, but also for his drawings, such as “The Vitruvian Man,” as well as his sketches of a flying machine, a hang glider, and numerous studies of human anatomy, all based on mathematical and physical principles of angles, lines, arcs, and relational gravity.

Of course, da Vinci was predated by the Greek Archimedes, whose studies in mathematics and physics are thought to be the origins of pi as well as the principles of the lever. Archimedes was working around 250 B.C. in Sicily. Then, of course, following da Vinci, was Galileo, who was perhaps the first to posit that the laws of nature were dictated by math. In The Assayer, Galileo stated that “Philosophy is written in this grand book, the universe … It is written in the language of mathematics, and its characters are triangles, circles, and other geometric figures” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galileo_Galilei).

“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” – A. Einstein

vitruvian-man
Yitruvian Man

But getting back to Einstein, this man spent almost a decade on his General Theory of Relativity (not to be confused with his theory of relativity), which he presented in 1916. This was the subject of the show that I watched last night. What I found the most amazing about the entire show was how this man with the beginnings of his wild hair would fill pages and pages with these long equations and know, just know that they were incorrect. But then I tried to relate his equations to words, and in a way it made sense to me. His numbers were a writer’s words. His numbers had their own elegance and truth for him. They were truth.

He could look at a page of numbers and see something larger. I can stare at a page of numbers, equations, and see absolutely nothing, I mean, absolutely nothing. That has always made me feel stupid: the way in which numbers come alive for some people. I know that it is a brain function thing: some people work with one side of their brain; other people work with the other side of their brain. And then there are some people, like da Vinci, who manage to tap into both sides of their brain and encompass all of it. That is what I have always been so jealous of: I want to tap into both sides of my brain. I want to work with words, and I want to see the beauty of numbers so that I can look at space and see not just the beauty of the stars, but also the beauty of reaching the stars.

“Great spirits have often encountered violent opposition from weak minds.” – A. Einstein

I have read countless articles on how human beings only use a very small portion of their brain function, that scientists are always looking for ways to open up that untapped potential. It’s the stuff of sci-fi horror movies—The Manchurian Candidate and others, depositing information into that unused portion of the brain only to have it come alive at some later time, usually inconvenient to real life, but great for the plot line. But you know that there are individuals who have tapped into part of that potential. We have seen and heard about them all throughout time, and they have come from all walks of life: Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Shakespeare, Alexander the Great, Dante, Beethoven, Einstein, Frank Lloyd Wright, Dorothea Lange, Le Corbusier, Bill Gates, Mozart, etc.

They are people who have achieved greatness in different fields for different reasons. I have only named a minute few. They have contributed in great ways and in horrible ways to our history because they have had the ability to see beyond the here and now. They have had the ability to tap into just that small part of their brains that most people use. They have melded the words with the numbers to put it into the crudest possible sense. In other words, they have touched greatness and changed the world and changed history.

Granted, Einstein was myopic when it came to his work. He had very little time for his family. He did, however pay attention to events around him. He was a pacifist, and he hated the events of WWI and the participation of colleagues of whom he had once greatly sought respect and admiration. He was very certain that his ideas were correct, so certain in fact, that he bartered for a divorce from his first wife on the condition that when he won the Nobel Prize, she could have the money if she would grant him a divorce. His biggest concern was getting what he wanted when he wanted it and being allowed to do as he wished. But no one who worked with him doubted his dedication or his genius.

“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.” – A. Einstein

worm-holeWhich takes us back to general relativity and one of my favorite concepts: an event horizon. Somehow, and don’t stick me on the particulars because I won’t even pretend to understand it all, when an object becomes sufficiently compact, general relativity predicts the formation of a black hole, a region of nothingness in space. In general relativity no material body can catch up with or overtake a light pulse. The study of spacetime is called global geometry.

Now, as I understand it, using global geometry, some boundaries can be identified, and these boundaries are called horizons, and a black hole is one of these horizons because it is cut off from the rest of space time (bear with me here, I think that I’m almost there). There are other types of horizons in the universe because the universe expands. Horizons from the past are called particle horizons and cannot be observed. Horizons from the future cannot be influenced and are called Event Horizons! I finally understand the term. I really do. How cool is that?

“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science.” – A. Einstein

So while I look at a painting such as Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus” and I may not see the Golden Mean, and I cannot appreciate the culture of pi and the fact that people spend time trying to carry it out beyond a trillion digits or why this is important, I don’t discount the art involved in this pursuit. As to myself, I am gloriously appreciative of the fact that somehow I have come just a little bit closer to understanding the mathematical definition of what an Event Horizon is, although I know that in actuality, I probably haven’t.

I do know that space and time are on another dimension, one that I cannot comprehend, just as I cannot truly comprehend the space between quarks. The closest that I have ever come was how it was explained in the movie “The Adventures of Buckaroo Bonzai Across the 8th Dimension,” which made complete sense to me” . . . perhaps because it was visual and utterly nonsensical.

Ah well.  Just remember, “no matter where you go, there you are.” More later. Peace.