Eagle Fruit Store and Capital Hotel

August 5, 2015

This photo caught my eye, and have spent a lot pondering it, possibly because it reminds me of my hometown of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Which didn't look like this when I was a kid but there's some similar atmosphere (telephone poles!)—maybe because, this turns out to be a 1942 photo of nearby Lincoln, Nebraska. Sioux Falls had (and has) similar low brick buildings but in my time the streets were not (or no longer) cobblestone and the cars were of course more recent. The seedy part of downtown by the bus station still looked a bit like this, although I suppose to a kid old = seedy. That and we were warned not to hang around down there.

Even if it didn't resonate for personal reasons, I think I would have been drawn in by this photo. (It was taken by John Vachon (1914–75), who turns out to be the father of film producer Christine Vachon; he was one of the many photographers recruited by Roy Stryker and sent out by the Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information during WWII.) I don't have the training or vocabulary to explain this but I think of how certain poems are widely beloved without most people being able to explain why they love them. I would have a better shot of doing that—how the language, rhythm, assonance, and what have you work to elevate it to a masterpiece. Obviously something similar is true for other art forms.