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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Interiors: 1941

Interiors: 1941

June 1941. "Interior of Negro rural house. Greene County, Georgia." Medium-format negative by Jack Delano, Farm Security Administration. View full size.

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A dark and stormy night

For what it's worth, my mom and dad and older siblings lived in a shotgun house back in the late 1940's. My dad was sitting in his chair smoking a cigarette in the living area in the middle of the night during a thunderstorm. A ball of fire came through the front door, rolled down the length of the house, and exited through the back door. True story.

Hat band

I would love to know what's around that guy's hat, just in case there were other photos from that day. Muffin tins (on the wall, in the kitchen), probably for corn bread. Someone said cupcake pans, but even when they're used for cupcakes, they're called muffin tins.

Kitchen house

In some parts of Georgia, families often had separate "kitchen houses" to keep heat and risk of fire away from the house. You can still view them in historic house tours. In the North, there was a similar concept, but used only seasonally, the summer kitchen.

It appears to me that this family also had their kitchen area separated from the other parts of their living quarters by a breezeway or porch area. The woman/girl in the foreground is in the sleeping area, then there is a porch with two folks seated, and beyond them, is the kitchen.

Domestic scene

This reminds me of Dutch domestic paintings where you can see people in distant doorways. A young woman stands at the entrance of a spotlessly clean house (also like the dutch) where her family members stand and sit farther back in the house, resolutely ignoring the camera. A beautiful, enigmatic photograph.

Deep Focus

I couldn't help but think of deep focus photography, as seen in movies such as "The Best Years of Our Lives." It's an amazing technique that draws the viewer in.

Norman Rockwell, Eat Your Heart Out

So many details to see from the safety pins holding up her apron, to the cupcake tins that seem to double as decor on the far wall, the open lock on the old chest, the bare feet, the quality of light...
Except this was not an artist's idealized fiction. Though I don't doubt there was some level of deliberate positioning between Jack Delano and the subjects, the overall feeling has a rich truth to it.

Shotgun Shack...

...was my first thought when I saw this photo, but obviously it's not really one, because there's not a door at the back end, and there look to be rooms on both sides of the hallway. I'm not from the South; I first heard about shotgun shacks when reading a biography of Elvis' life- his first home, where was born, was a shotgun shack.

Also, I noticed how the woman in front has the top of her apron pinned to her dress, rather than holding it up with a neck strap. Never saw that before.

House Design

I believe we're looking at the interior of what is called a "Shotgun House." They were built narrow and long to fit more buildings into one area. The name came from someone saying you could "Stand at the front door and fire a shotgun out the back door and hit nary a thing."

Take a guess

The three people in the background in two other rooms all appear to be watching TV, but I doubt that many people had a TV in 1941.
What do you think they were looking at?

[The lighting suggests the two in back are on an open porch and the seated man in a room with an open door, and they're all looking at whatever is going on outside. -tterrace]

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