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Pittsburgh Posts: 1941

June 1941. "Rain. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania." Medium format acetate negative by John Vachon for the Farm Security Administration. View full size.

June 1941. "Rain. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania." Medium format acetate negative by John Vachon for the Farm Security Administration. View full size.


On Shorpy:
Today’s Top 5

A distinction without a difference

SagebrushCity might have missed the format size of the camera, but everything else he posited Vachon doing could have been done just as well with a 4¼ x 3¼ Graphic, which also existed at the time (I used to have one).

Thanks to the keen eye of davidk

I am also mesmerized by the abacus motif.

Singing In The Rain

Just, singing in the rain. What a glorious feeling.

Depth of Field

I had the same reaction that ManyBuicks did. I shoot with several twin lens reflex cameras from the 1930s, so I experimented a bit. I fastened a piece of frosted mylar at the film plane of my 1937 Ikoflex (identical to one used by Jack Delano) and sighted across the facade of my row of townhouses. At f/8 the depth of field was barely adequate, and not nearly as good as in Vachon’s rain shot. Considering that the original photo was probably shot at about 1/50 second (common on cameras of that era) to almost stop the walker, and the day was quite dark, I think that would have required film with an unrealistically high ASA speed, especially for those years.

Then I found the original scan at the Library of Congress. The film was medium format, alright, but it was sheet film. (The notch codes are visible.) That means that Vachon could have used a 2x3 Speed Graphic camera. They don’t have a front swing movement for the lens, but by dropping the bed and holding the camera sidewise, you can achieve the same result.

However he did it, John Vachon knew what he was doing.

[The film size is 4¼ x 3¼ inches. --Dave]

Ticket Time

Parking left wheels to curb brings a parking ticket nearly everywhere. Well, except in England, of course.

Posts and balusters still there!

Astute Shorpy followers will notice that the fragment of column on the far left is the same column as the one seen in a different view posted in June 2008:

The location was identified in a comment as being on the corner of Madison and Lockhart. Here's the same view from the same location today:

Posts and balusters are still present at this location. The lack of spindlework causes it to lose some of its old charm, in my opinion.

Bonus loveliness

The abacus motif of the transom grill directly above the porch rail is just plain beautiful.

Great Cars!

Facing us across the street is a 1935 Chevrolet. The third car, facing us, is a 1940 Chevrolet. The first car facing us on the right is a 1936 Ford.


Considering the light level, Vachon has achieved great depth of field without resorting to a slow shutter speed (man and umbrella in motion not blurred). I view in awe. Camera? Rollieflex?

A thousand words?

This is a picture you can hear.

Ah, I see now

It's an awning on the next porch.

Is the circus in town?

What is that large tent filling the street a block ahead?

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