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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • FIGHT DISEASE WITH CLEANLINESS: 1936

Life in Wartime: 1942

Life in Wartime: 1942

November 1942. Washington, D.C. "Southwest section. Two Negro boys." Large format negative by Gordon Parks, Office of War Information. View full size.

 

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Pre-Gentrification

Until urban "renewal" days, Southwest, Washington's smallest quadrant, harbored few attractions, especially for those condemned by economics and ethnicity to live there: Hogate's (a then-segregated seafood palace), Ft. McNair, and major portions of The Mall, but mostly sub-standard housing that was working-class in the 19th Century and had been going downhill steadily. There is a premature wisdom and sensitivity in these young faces, but something else besides -- perhaps a dawning realization that there is, or ought to be, more to life than what these children had yet experienced. One hopes that these two found productive outlets for their ambitions and that they, or their descendants, did well enough to be able to afford to live in the largely up-scale Southwest DC of our current century.

As for Mr. Parks, this brilliant but deceptively simple shot gives a clear glimpse into the complex and vibrant creativity he later displayed as a photo-journalist, fashion photographer, composer, writer, and, of course, film director.

Missing arm

Is the one boy missing his left arm, or it tucked in his shirt? Hard to tell.

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