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Tuesday, 05 September 2017


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A very well-done photo essay by Mr. Maurer. I'm nearly always fascinated by such before-and-after photos particularly when they're done as precisely as Maurer's are. Thanks very much for calling it out, Mike.

Regarding the "typical or generic vacationers" in the original highly-staged scenes, I also can't avoid noticing that they're all white as the snow. Nobody of color. No Asians. That was probably very accurate ... and aspirational. But such narrow social standards were probably among the most powerful unseen forces that ultimately destroyed these places.

The 'rephotography' of Pablo Iglesias kind of freaked me out. About 20 years ago I attended a medical course that was perversely held at one of the old Catskills resorts, can't remember now which one. The staff proudly noted that it had just been completely refurbished....restoring it to its original bizarre early 1950s faux-modernist tacky glory. It was just ghastly, from the neon furniture to the fake stars across the ceiling to the gaudy wallpaper. I guess they were trying hard to get the octagenarian market before they all died. Not a good long term business model; they closed about 5 years later.

At first glance I thought the headline read The Past Stalking the President.

Thankfully TOP is still politics free.

[Well, it was until you said this! :-) --Mike]

All the houses where I lived in Detroit have either been razed or covered over by highways. I don't have photos of the houses, only the aerial views from Google.

Time shows up dramatically in a series of pictures that Mark Mulligan shot for the Houston Chronicle last week, and tweeted as @mrkmully. He had been one of the major suppliers of incredible photos, both funny and scary, of the flooding, so he went back to the locales of his best shots, a day after the waters had largely receded. Things looked normal. His intent was to show how high the water had become, but by presenting the flood as "before" and the dry ground as "after," he delivered a confusing message. The thread quickly filled up with pictures two days after the waters receded, and showed sidewalks filled with trashed furniture and belongings, broken wallboard, and just wet stuff of all sorts.

Yes it does! One of the reasons photography matters so... And one of the reasons I'm forever fascinated by the work of Eva Leitolf.

So won't the real Tristram Shandy, please stand up,
Please stand up,
Please stand up

I've never been farther north than NYCity. All I know about the Borsch Belt, I learned from Jackie Mason. So I was surprised to see all the out of business resorts. Although I don't know why, SoCal has paved over the 1950s—big time. Downtown Huntington Beach has only one building left, that was there in the '50s.

Like it, or not, time marches on, and on and on. All I have to do is look in the mirror, to know that.


Camilo Vergara has been recording the changing American urban landscape for decades. He won a MacArthur Award and other honors for his work over the years. His seminal book "The New American Ghetto" from the mid 90's may still be available for purchase. His work is the most systematic (and instructive) I have seen in this genre.

Time does march on, for sure.

The "before" images strike me as out and out lifestyle marketing, which has probably been with us since the dawn of time. Not a bad thing necessarily, though at some point, most of us realize that "all that glitters is not gold".

Congrats to Mr. Maurer for a fine series of images.

Another powerful example of photographing a whole era long after its time has ended, with the same mixed feelings, is the book "Asylum," (2009) by Christopher Payne with a very insightful essay by Oliver Sacks. It's hard to find now, but worth looking for. Like the Poconos/Catskills resorts, state mental institutions were created on a grand scale for a noble purpose (as Sacks explains), located in relatively out of the way places, and nearly impossible to repurpose. (Well, except in NY State, where they became prisons.) The past is captured in postcards, as towns and states were proud of their work and their modern approaches to providing a safe home for the mentally handicapped. Sometime in the '50s to '60s, with psychotropic drugs and budget crunches, time passed them by. The patients are completely absent, and some of the interiors are ruined, but a surprising amount of Payne's pictures show a life, from adulthood to the grave, just interrupted. His bowling alley looks shiny and capable. His racks still have shoes with their sizes indicated on the ends.

I think Payne and Sacks chose to make time stand still, and resisted pictures that would show it destroying everything in its path. It's a choice.

Borsch Belt and wikipedia directed me to
And of course all the hilarious episodes of this, that i saw on bbc some years ago.

One of the most famous photographs, Steiglitz's "Steerage" has absolutely no meaning today.
Apparently when it was new, it was apparent which of the passengers were of "low class" and which were "high class," but how they all look alike.
Sic Gloria Transit (or something).

I just recently read an article about that region (the "Borscht Belt") and how it boomed after the war but then lost out to cheap flights to more exotic locations like Florida.

Sadly, I don't quite remember where I found that article.

I swam in both indoor and outdoor pools at Grossinger's. My grandparents would vacation in the Catskills every year, Grossinger's, The Nevele, The Pines, The Shady Nook and Browns (associated with Jerry Lewis RIP) and we would visit on the weekend, watch the Saturday evening show and go home on Sunday. There was more food served at each meal than a small nation could consume.

The reason (not necessarily a good reason) for the homogenous clientele was that there was a Jewish Catskills, an Irish Catskills and an Italian Catskills. It was a huge deal when comedian Pat Cooper (Irish) did a performance in the Jewish Catskills.

They were some remarkable times for a kid from Queens NYC.

I'd love to do some UrbEx photography. Unfortunately, most of it involves trespassing and I already attract enough attention from the police with my night photography as it is. 8^(

There is a new film about the Comedians of the Borscht Belt, it looks wonderful

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