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Pie Town Parley: 1940

Pie Town Parley: 1940

October 1940. "Farm family after evening meal. Pie Town, New Mexico." Medium format acetate negative by Russell Lee for the Farm Security Administration. View full size.


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Rembrandt lighting a couple of centuries later.

"A lot of the processing was by Photoshop"

Photoshop truly is amazing. I looked up this photo on the LoC website and saw just how dark and low in detail it appears from the original negative. The astonishing thing is that all the detail actually was recorded; it's just that film and processing weren't up to recovering it. Dave's restoration augments Lee's talent.

Much as I dream of the past, today has its wonders.

[Any "recovering" of detail would have happened in the darkroom when the negative was printed. - Dave]

Agreed: burning, dodging and other tricks were routine in any darkroom. But even the most artful enlarger artisan would be very hard pressed to ever create a finished print to rival what we can do in Photoshop in seconds.

Reminds me of Hopper's "Nighthawks"

I'm aware of the power of the image having neutralized any distracting surroundings by darkness so that you can't help but let the faces tell the story. I'm thinking of Malcolm Gladwell's book, Blink, and how universal are the expressions of our faces. This image is captivating me.

Amazing image

I don't often wonder about technical aspects in most photos, but I would love to know the details on how Lee captured and processed this image so perfectly under these conditions.

[A lot of the processing was by Photoshop, a few hours ago. - Dave]

Keeping John D. Rockefeller in business

The table lamp looks to be a Rayo round-wick model with an Argand burner. Rayos were made by Bradley & Hubbard and marketed by Standard Oil; there is a story that a free Rayo lamp came with a purchase of 15 gallons or more of Standard kerosene. Rayos have a rep among collectors as fuel hogs, which quite possibly is why Standard Oil got involved with them in the first place. They became much less popular after 1907, when the Aladdin lamp combined an Argand burner with a Welsbach rare-earth mantle to produce a better and more economical light.

Gogh's "Potato eaters"

Real life reenactment, if ever was the one.

That map tho.

I wish I could see a detailed version!

Questions remain

Are the older couple parents of the young woman or the man? Whose house are they at or do they share a domicile? Is this a nightly affair or is it weekly? An aspiring writer could run far with this image.

Have to say

I can't think of a better photograph on this site. Old friends relaxing after a long day. Wow!

Double word score

Every single photo of a table lit by a kerosene lamp reminds me of my dad's story of playing Scrabble by kerosene lamp during Hurricane Carla in 1961. It's a story I've heard in various forms for as long as I've been playing Scrabble, and I'm sure the final version will be told in the memoir he says he's writing. Oh, but unlike the residents of Pie Town, they had electricity when there wasn't a hurricane, right? Well, yeah. He also has childhood memories of his grandmother's place in West Texas, before the REA.

And then there's the story of the stray cow.

Where the men are laconic

My mother comes from a ranching and farming family a little south of Pie Town. I can say with certainty that the aforementioned engagement between the women is partly because those two men didn't say more than six sentences each throughout dinner. And the words "Fine", "Yes", and "No" constitute sentences.

It doesn't get any better

It's just a beautiful photograph and a beautiful moment, especially the engagement between the two women.

Night Time is the Best Time

I love the atmosphere that the photographer achieved with the balance between light and dark, and the interactions between the people. Well done!

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