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Barbershop Duet: 1936

March 1936. "Negro barber shop, Atlanta." Large-format nitrate negative by Walker Evans for the Resettlement Administration. View full size.

March 1936. "Negro barber shop, Atlanta." Large-format nitrate negative by Walker Evans for the Resettlement Administration. View full size.


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re: What a Dump

RE What a Dump's comment: I don't think it's dirty at all, nor particularly a fire waiting to happen. We're all set in our 21st century crazy clean and safe world; this is how people lived in the 1930s. They used clean newsprint to deliver babies in, for God's sake. And don't forget fish and chips! It's a tidy little barbershop. And I can't see how anyone can determine the towels are used. I think it's a lovely little shop.

Goings on

I wonder if that "doorbell" button is to warn the people in the back room in case the coppers come in for a raid?

What a dump

I am by no means a fastidious person, no obsessive-compulsive disorder here and a little mess does not unhinge me. However, for a barbershop, which has to meet sanitary standards from the board of health and hopefully not spread communicable diseases in a business that specializes in human grooming and handling of biological materials of large groups of people (who may harbor various bacteria and diseases) this place is filthy. Not only are there used towels left hanging everywhere, the place is in total disarray and apparent neglect as far as acceptable housekeeping and illness prevention is concerned. Would you patronize a place like this or take your kids here? In 1936, this was totally unacceptable in the cleanliness department.

Barbershop Rich's

The newspaper, not surprisingly, has an ad for the mainstay Atlanta department store Rich's. The headlines are talking about Gene Talmadge, Democrat and multi-termed Georgia governor, who created a political machine dynasty that rivaled anything in Boston or Chicago. One of those crooked enigmatic Huey Long types which seemed to resonate with the common man and seemed to bring about good works for them while at the same time rotten… and in his case as well as his son, a later GA governor, racist to the core.

No photographer ghosts?

All those mirrors and not a single reflection of the camera, photographer or flash equipment. There isn't much to go on; I could take a walk down there and see if the building was razed for a parking lot.

Booster Board

Every time I see a barber chair, I remember the booster board. That's the board they put across the armrests to boost up a 5-year-old to the barber's height. The ones I remember were padded too, but I don't see any in this photo.

Fresh News

All of that newsprint looks pretty fresh. Perhaps it was used to tidy up the atmosphere for the photo.

A little off the top.

I'm worried about what they use that screw jack for.

Gone to the Cinema

Everyone must be at the local theater to see Mae West and Victor McLaughlin in "Klondike Annie."

Clip joint.

My first job in the early 60's was shining shoes in a barber shop. I always loved the intricate iron work in the foot rests. And all the arm rests had built in ashtrays.

Getting clipped

I remember hand clippers like those on the little table next to the hat. I wonder if this was a basement shop, but it has a wood floor -- with a couple of loose board-ends between the chair on the right and the table.


Wow, this has all the ingredients for a three-alarmer: kerosene lamps balancing precariously on loose newspaper pages, even more newspaper sheets lightly hanging on the wall at most one inch from a bare light bulb, piles of rags, cloth-covered (and probably fraying) electrical cord splaying out from the wall.

A focused barber

The barber has three different forms of localized light available. One of them (radiant heater converted to a spotlight) is especially clever. Wonder if he had poor eyesight or just liked to see what he was cutting?

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