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Friday, 02 March 2012


Does it make me a bad person, that the thing I keep thinking about when I see Cushman's work is: "gee, I wonder if I could color-correct that". I'm a sucker for historical color photos, but I really hunger for learning what color things actually were, not color-shifted versions. The color casts of pre-digital era color prints and slides have a kind of nostalgia filter on them, to my eye. I would know - I was born in the early ninteen seventies, and I know the world didn't have that yellow, low contrast look that pictures of my childhood have!

I think I have a special soft spot for looking at the clothes people wear, how they stand when they don't know they are being photographed, and naturally lit interiors before the age of 'fast' film.

I know my grandfather had a similar focus as Cushman, between commercial jobs - he was born in 1900, so by the early sixties had a keen appreciation for documenting things that were about to disappear - in color whenever possible. I think I need to check the archives and see if I can get some of his stuff out there.


Helen Levitt's work is much more engaging than that 22 image sample. Either he was a happy-snapper, or the editors of the book (and the Chicago Mag article) really didn't know what to look for. Out of 22 images in the sample, fully 1/3 of them are terribly uninteresting shots of homes or apartment buildings. Those may be valuable to family members, but as photographs they sure don't stand on their own.

You can keep Cushman, but can I have a few hundred Harris prints please. What a body of work. Thanks for that Mike, I was excited as it was in the Daily Mail and was looking for where it was so I can go and see them, then I re-read Mike's post and decided PA is a bit far.
I'm surprised it's reported in the Daily Mail though - not normally regarded as a source of cultural references over here in the UK...

I was lucky enough to snag the "One Shot" Harris book when I was living in Washington DC in the early 2000's (I think it was published in 2002). This is actually one of the books I didn't sell when I got rid of most of my collection of books to try to travel lighter. Sniff, goodbye Keith Carter, I misses ya!

Any way, I think I kept it because I really liked his whole life, from black newspaper photographer down to his little studio in the black section of Pittsburg; it just seemed like the ideal life and something not open to the majority of working photographers today. A nice, precious little photographic life...

I did a quick check on his book on-line and found some used for between 125 and 200 bucks! Whew, glad I kept that one!

While it's true that Cushman wasn't a particularly talented photographer, IMO he was a good photographer nonetheless because he travelled with his camera, and he used it. Ya, lots of people did that, but not so many in his day were as organized as he to catalogue and preserve their snaps. It's easy to forgot that before the age of digicams and phonecams this took some dedication, that a photographic record such as Cushman's was the result of a true avocation.

I perused his archive (thanks Ken) and was moved by the slideshow of highlights because it was arranged in chronological order and so presented the gentle arc of a life. I was particularly touched by two pictures at the end of the series, the 1967 pictures of hippies in San Francisco. In one, two girls smile at the camera and the photographer's shadow nicks the corner of the shot. In the other a teenage boy gives the camera the finger. In both you can feel the inveterate 71 year old photographer snapping away as the world changed in front of him. (What the hippie boy likely didn't know was that Cushman wasn't taking his picture because of his colourful clothing or the culture gap, but because he took pictures of EVERYTHING!) I love vernacular photography.

Of course, the other thing the Cushman archive made me think of was ALWAYS EDIT YOUR WORK ;-)

Lastly, there's a little extra nostalgia looking at Cushman's and Herzog's work today after yesterday's TOP headline about Kodak slide film.

This is not the first Teeny Harris show that the Carnegie has done. I recall one from a few years back (checks memory ... it was 2004, holy cow).

I need to get to this one though. The stuff is astounding.

One Shot Harris was a well reproduced book with some amazing images that brought to life a segment of American society that was very much ignored back then and very much unknown today.

One can't help but feel the Bizarro World vibes it imparts simply by documenting a parallel world as everyday as it larger counterpart- except in terms of the color of its subjects.

I for me, don't agree with you on this one Mike. I think Cushman did exactly with a camera what you should do. He took pictures of the ordinary not of the extraordinary. These look like standard 35mm slides (damned stupid archive for not restoring them before showing them online) I would gladly run the risk of living in your gun slinging country :-), if that would grant me the right to rescan and restore all 14.000 negatives (at 10 minutes per negative that would be an easy task for me, motel room, 3 meals a day, car (you need that in the US as well, and about 6 month time), did this with about 1500 foto's from my family members (so I know what to expect from the ordinary) and this is not that. This is something decidedly extraordinary. This is a timecapsule of the not so verry special, of the mundane, the middle class life, Chicago canbe blessed that it mr. Cushman did not edit....I have saved every picture I have ever taken (in RAW and JPEG as they come out of my camera). Since believe it or not, sometimes you and I will feel the same kind of loss about our day and time, as you feel now about the pictures of Cushman.

Greetings, Ed

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