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Behind the Scenes: 1935

Behind the Scenes: 1935

November 1935. "Backyard in Northwest Washington, D.C." Medium format negative by Carl Mydans for the Resettlement Administration. View full size.


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I agree with Marysd. This man isn't in the underclass, he's what we'd today call "working poor". Note he has clothes that are in good condition, and he's wearing shoes -- not at all typical of the rural sharecroppers, or even sweatshop workers, we've seen in other Resettlement Administration photos.

Yes, he hasn't tidied up his backyard, but maybe that's because, unlike so many people in 1935, he has a job and doesn't have time.

I tried to identify as many objects in the photo as I could. I am sure about the towel hanging on the clothesline, essentially like a modern towel, the washboard, and the mop that could be a sponge mop or something similar. There's a T-square in the foreground; could he be a draftsman?

It never occurred to me the lean-to on the left might be a privy as Marysd suggests. Usually, US outhouses had a crescent-moon shaped window high in the wall. This looks more like a storage shed but you never know.

He has a good-looking dog, maybe mostly German shepherd, peacefully curled up on the ground. Let's hope he's a good master.

Still hopeful

Although this man's living conditions look grim to us, he has a hopeful expression on his face. Let's hope he achieved his dreams. Is that an outhouse to the left of the photo? Alongside what looks like a chamberpot and a washboard? It looks like the living conditions of some of the urban poor weren't much better than those of the rural sharecroppers the Resettlement Administration photographed.

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