Family Album THE STACKS

Holding Still

First Sip:

Photography takes an
instant out of time, altering life by
holding it still.

– Dorothea Lange

Dorothea Lange
Texas, 1934
photo by Paul S Taylor

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Slice of Cake:

In her teens—and before she’d taken a single picture—
Dorothea Lange knew she wanted to be a photographer.

Later, with her own portrait studio, catering to the wealthy,
she knew she had to document the poverty she saw on the street.

And when the US Army hired her during World War II,
she knew she had to work despite (rather than within) the Army’s guidelines.

6 Snapshots
from the life of
Dorothea Lange

Dorothea Lange
1936

Art is a by-product of an act
of total attention.

– Dorothea Lange

In high school, Dorothea Lange often skipped class
to wander the streets of New York City.

What she saw—in the people, in the poverty,
in the laundry hung above the streets, as well as in galleries and art studios—
made her want to be a photographer.1
Now all she needed was a camera.

Dorothea had contracted polio at the age of seven.
It affected the shape of her right foot, and gave her a limp for the rest of her life.
In her long career, the only self-portrait Lange took was of her bare right foot.2

I think it perhaps was the most
important thing that happened to me.
It formed me, guided me,
instructed me, helped me, and humiliated me.
I’ve never gotten over it…and I am aware of
the force and power of it.

– Dorothea Lange3

When Dorothea was 12, her father,
Heinrich Nutzhorn, left their family, and left debts behind.
Her mother Joan quickly moved herself and her two children
in with her own mother, Sophia, in Hoboken, NJ.
Joan then took back her family name of Lange,4
and got herself hired as a librarian at the New York Public Library.

Her mother’s idea was that Dorothea would come into New York with her every day and
attend school there. And Dorothea did. Occasionally.
(But mostly not.)

So here was Dorothea,
a short, thin, fatherless teenage girl wandering
the New York streets with a limp.
For her safety, she quickly acquired street smarts—plus something
she called her ‘invisible coat’ 5

If I don’t want anybody to see me,
I can make the kind of face so
nobody will look at me.

– Dorothea Lange 3

It was a trick that came in handy
during her long career as a documentary photographer.


Original caption: Drought Refugees Hoping for Cotton Work
Blythe, California, 1936
photo by Dorothea Lange
Getty Museum, Los Angeles

The portrait is made
more meaningful by intimacy;
an intimacy shared not only by the
photographer with his subject
but by the audience.

– Dorothea Lange

After (barely) graduating high school
and without ever having held a camera in her life—
Dorothea got a job in a photo studio.

At first she mostly answered phones and greeted customers.
But with her eager interest in photography, she was soon able
to start learning some photo processing. 1

When her boss gave her a used camera as a gift,6
Dorothea Lange was free to start working on a skill she had
dreamed about as a child.

She took up apprenticeships in several other photo studios,
and even took a photography class at Columbia University.
All the while, she was carefully saving her money…

…because Dorothea Lange had a plan:
She wanted to widen her focus;
She wanted to travel around the world.

So Lange and her friend Fronsie worked out an itinerary:
First to New Orleans by boat;
then cross the U.S. by train.
From there, they were to board a steamship heading across the Pacific.

The two young women saved up $140 between them, and off they went.
Once they reached the West Coast, however,
their trip abruptly ended.
Fronsie, carrying all their money,
got pickpocketed on the street in San Francisco.

What a momentous crime!
Not only were they stuck there for the time,
but Dorothea Lange stayed and lived in the San Francisco Bay Area
for the rest of her life.

Eventually—some 40 years later—
Dorothea Lange did take a round-the-world trip,
in her late 60s, with her second husband.5


Original caption: All baggage is inspected before newcomers enter the Santa Anita Park Assembly Center at Arcadia, California, for evacuees of Japanese ancestry. Evacuees are transferred later to
War Relocation Authority Centers for the duration.
photo by Dorothea Lange

The good photograph is
not the object—
the consequences of

the photograph are the objects.
– Dorothea Lange

After their money was stolen,
Lange found work as a ‘finisher’ in a photographic supply shop.1

After a while, she was able to open her own studio in downtown San Francisco.
Running a business meant putting in 18-20 hours in the studio.5
But after hours, she liked to set up an old Russian samovar to make tea
and invite in friends, other photographers and local artists.5

Lange began to make good money taking portrait photos of the city’s wealthy elite.
But out the window of her studio,
Lange soon began to see a very different San Francisco.


Original caption: White Angel Breadline
San Francisco, 1933
photo by Dorothea Lange

The discrepancy
between what I was working on

in my portrait studio and
what was going on in the street
was more than I could assimilate.

– Dorothea Lange

The Depression was deepening,
and more and more desperate people were crowding into cities across America.

Dorothea Lange started to wander around San Francisco—
not unlike what she did as a child in New York—
except this time she had a camera.

She was there to see (and photograph) the Longshoreman’s Strike of 1934.

Lange developed photos from that day, along with other street scenes,
and hung them on the wall of her studio.
Her clients sometimes asked her: What are you going to do with those?5
And she would answer, truthfully: I don’t know.

In 1934, a small gallery in Oakland included some of her photos in an exhibit.
An economics professor from UC Berkeley saw them and contacted Lange.
His name was Paul Taylor, and he wanted her permission to use
one of her strike photos in a report he was writing.
Lange said yes.

Taylor was then hired by the California government to investigate farm labor problems.
Because he believed good photos would make his reports more compelling,
he asked Lange to come along.
She said yes to that, too.

One problem: there was no job title (and no budget) for a “government photographer.”
The solution: Lange was officially hired as ‘typist.’ 5

After a few months, the US Federal Farm Security Administration (FSA) saw
Taylor’s reports with Lange’s photographs, and hired them both.

In 1935, after working together for almost a year,
Dorothea Lange and Paul Taylor got married in Albuquerque, New Mexico.


Original caption: Dust bowl refugees, 1935
Along the highway near Bakersfield, California.
photo by Dorothea Lange

I am trying here to say something about
the despised, the defeated,

the alienated.
About death and disaster,
about the wounded, the crippled,
the helpless, the rootless,

the dislocated.
About finality. About the last ditch.

– Dorothea Lange

For the next five years,
Lange and Taylor traveled through 20 states
documenting the often desperate conditions of the lives of sharecroppers and migrant laborers.

Lange’s style was to approach people with friendly comments about the children,
and to share details about herself to try to put people at ease.
She often positioned her camera pointing upward. That way the people
seeing her photos wouldn’t be looking down on the people in her pictures.

While Lange was busy with her camera,
Taylor gathered information about work prospects, travel problems, and living conditions.
Lange appreciated Taylor’s respectful style of interviewing people.

Both Lange and Taylor believed in having the farm workers speak for themselves.
At first, Lange would run over to Taylor with quotes so that he could
write them down in his notebook. Soon though, she began keeping her own notebook.

She felt these notes were essential, giving context and a fuller understanding than pictures alone.
Here’s an example of a note Lange wrote down from her conversations with a farmer:5

1927 made $7000
1928 broke even
1929 went into the hole
1930 still deeper
1931 lost everything
1932 hit road


Original caption: Mexican mother in California. 1935 “Sometimes I tell my children that I would like to go to Mexico, but they tell me:
‘We don’t want to go, we belong here.'”
photo by Dorothea Lange

You know, so often
it’s just sticking around
and
being there, remaining there,
not swooping out in a cloud of dust.

Sitting down on the ground
with people,
letting children look at your camera with their dirty, grimy little hands,

and putting their fingers on the lens.

And you just let them.

Because you know that
if you will behave in
a generous manner,
you are apt to receive it, you know?


– Dorothea Lange

Throughout her years of documenting sharecroppers and migrant families,
Lange’s biggest frustration was how the government would leave off
the captions that she and Taylor had attached to her photographs.

In 1939, Lange and Taylor published a book, An American Exodus, showing her photos
the way she felt they were meant to be seen: with Paul’s notes and her original captions.7

Dorothea Lange’s best known photo 8
Original caption: Destitute pea pickers in California.
Mother of seven children. Age thirty-two.
Nipomo, California, 1936
photo by Dorothea Lange


In 1966, a retrospective show of the life’s work of Dorothea Lange opened at
The Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

It was the first solo exhibition by a female photographer in MoMA’s history.

Despite pain from post-polio syndrome and distress over a recent cancer diagnosis,
the 70-year-old Lange worked for months, sorting through thousands of her photographs,
spending hours trying different groupings, looking for arrangements that would enhance their meaning.

Dorothea Lange died before she could see the exhibit.

At the opening in New York, a letter was read aloud;
it was from the president of the United States, and
full of praise for Dorothea Lange.

The magic of her camera turned
mere statistics into compelling human truths.
Without re-touching our blemishes, she showed the strength
and gallantry of the American people under severe adversity.

– letter from Lyndon B Johnson
read at the opening of a Dorothea Lange retrospective show
at the Museum of Modern Art
January 1966

Dorothea Lange, 1964

Happy 127th Birthday
** Dorothea Lange **

– born May 26, 1895
in Hoboken, New Jersey

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Linger Awhile:

What I had to do was to
take pictures and concentrate on people,
only people, all kinds of people,
people who paid me and
people who didn’t.

– Dorothea Lange

Been thinking this week about the concept of ‘following your dream’
and how often that process plays out in a very step-wise manner.
A life’s dream can be a pretty big pictureand it often develops slowly, in stages.

As Dorothea Lange was wandering New York City as a child,
I doubt she was thinking beyond something like:
I’m seeing things and noticing things and I want to capture them so
I can think about them more.


Later, as she was propelled out onto the streets of downtown San Francisco—
by nothing but a feeling for the stark abyss between the lives of her wealthy customers
and those of the men lining up for a single meal—
Lange couldn’t say why she needed to capture these moments on film.

Lange was inspired by her friends who were photographers,
especially Imogen Cunningham and Ansel Adams.
But when she tried to imitate them with pictures of
landscapes, or figures as part of a landscape, she was dissatisfied with the results.

It was out of this dissatisfaction that she realized that
she only wanted to photograph faces of people:
People living their lives as best they could,
their dignity and their persistence, their despair and their courage.

I want to extract the universality
of the situation, not the circumstance.

– Dorothea Lange

During the Depression, the federal government hired her
because of her ability to capture the humanity of human faces.
Her agenda and the FSA’s agenda overlapped.

Once the war started, the government hired her again.
But this time, their agenda and hers could not be more dissimilar.

In 1942, Dorothea Lange received a job offer that surprised and confused her.1
The US Army wanted to hire her to take photos of the first, new
Japanese-American Internment Camp in Manzanar, California,
located 128 miles due east of Fresno.

Most likely, all the Army knew about her was that
she was an experienced photographer, with
a good reputation as a government employee,
that she was already there on the West Coast,1
(and—since it was a women—they probably thought they could save money by paying her less).
So they simply hired her.

My guess is that [the Army] thought a photographic record
could protect against false allegations of mistreatment
and violations of international law.
They did not, apparently, register that
such a record carried the risk of

confirming allegations
that were true.
– Linda Gordon
1

Knowing the Army had chosen the wrong photographer, Dorothea Lange jumped at the chance.
And she worked as quickly as she could, feeling she might be fired at any time.

Original caption: Grandfather and Grandson
Manzanar, Owens Valley, California, 1942
photo by Dorothea Lange

Lange was given instruction about what she was supposed to photograph:
“Military police in a favorable light…not Gestapo and that sort of thing.” 1
And told what she was not allowed to photograph; things like
watch towers, machine guns, or barbed wire.1

She was required to turn over to the Army all prints, negatives, and undeveloped film.
She was required to sign away all rights to her work.

Dorothea Lange was not alone in her belief
that the internment of Japanese-Americans was wrong.
Both the NAACP and the ACLU fought and campaigned against it.1
But this internment of Americans was ignored by most Americans.

Though the official start date of her job was April 2, 1942,
the forced relocations began on March 22,
and so Dorothea Lange got to work in early March—
and in a way that her bosses neither knew about nor sanctioned—
all the while keeping up what biographer Linda Gordon called Lange’s
“façade of neutrality in her dealings with the army.”

She began taking pictures of Japanese-American families as ordinary Americans,
running neighborhood businesses, with their children in integrated schools,
with their pet dog on the front lawn.

She then took photos of the transport process:
families waiting in line with soldiers on guard, children as prisoners being herded onto trains.

Original caption: Shizuko Ina waits in line in San Francisco to hear
news of her fate in the wake of President Franklin D. Roosevelt signing Executive Order 9066.
photo by Dorothea Lange

This. is. what. we. did.
How did it happen?
How could we?

– Dorothea Lange
KQED interviews
1965-1966

Once she and the internees arrived at the camp in Manzanar,9
the military police harassed Lange, sometimes scaring her.1
They tried to waste her limited time inside the camp by repeatedly
demanding to see her credentials.1
Worst of all, they tried to prevent her from talking to any of the internees,
and so she had less and less opportunity to take portrait-style pictures of individuals.

Many of the people at Manzanar—especially seeing how harassed Lange was by the military police
and all the limitations that were put on her—understood what Lange was trying to do.
For years after the war, Lange would receive Christmas cards
and invitations to visit from former internees.1

Lange heard about another internment camp, one she
especially wanted to photograph, at Tule Lake.
This was where the Army sent anyone who they believed might cause problems,
anyone the Army called “disloyal,” and who Lange called the “obstreperous ones.”
But Lange’s request for permission to travel to Tule Lake was denied.1

Internees themselves were forbidden to bring cameras to the camps.
However, one artist, named Toyo Miyatake, smuggled a camera lens into camp,
fashioned a camera box out of scrap wood, and began surreptitiously taking photographs.
According to biographer Linda Gordon, Miyatake felt this was “so risky that he didn’t even tell his wife.” 1

Miyatake worked taking photos for almost a year before he was caught.
He was able to defend himself and the innocuous nature of his pictures, however, and eventually
he became an official portrait photographer, including taking senior pictures
of the high school graduates within the internment camp.1

In all, Dorothea Lange took about 800 photographs
of Japanese-American families and of the Manzanar Internment Camp
where they were forcibly relocated.

World in agony, camera dusty.
Some work accomplished,

not organized or well built.
Much energy lost…

busyness, frustration.

– Dorothea Lange
notes jotted in her notebook, 1942

Sixth-grade students studying,
Voluntary Elementary School

Manzanar, 1942
photo by Dorothea Lange

But once the Army saw Dorothea Lange’s photos, they impounded every one of them.
And those photos stayed impounded. For 30 years.

Lange herself only saw them once.
In the last year of her life, she traveled to the National Archives in Washington DC.
Here’s what she said about that experience…

I had never had a comfortable feeling
about that war relocation job… the difficulties of doing it
were immense, but really it’s surprising what I did…
Gosh I’d worked… and some of them are beautiful,
some of them are really compelling pictures,
not a very great many, but the
factual ones are also there.

– Dorothea Lange
from a series of KQED interviews
1965-1966

Her photographs of Japanese-American families, weren’t able to influence public opinion against
the internment camps, the way Dorothea Lange had hoped they might.
Yet, without these photos, our historical record of these wrongs would not be as clear.13


I don’t know if Dorothea Lange’s life’s dream
was to show the dignity of humanity through the lens of a camera,
but with her photos during the 1930s and 1940s, she does exactly that.

Your work is to discover your work,
and then with all your heart
to give yourself to it.

– Buddhist proverb

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“Half Cup More”

Dorothea Lange was the third photographer hired by the FSA.
One of the first two was a man named Arthur Rothstein.10

It was Arthur Rothstein who, in 1939,
took photos of my grandparents’ farm in Southern Illinois.

Arthur Rothstein, 1938
fellow FSA photographer
and colleague of Dorothea Lange

The Library of Congress has an online
and searchable archive of the FSA photos.
If you had family
living in the rural US during the 1930s,
you may find pictures of them here.
I did.

This website is pretty easy to use.
(For a link to the website, see footnote #11 below.)
But I’d say there are two potential hurdles to finding your family pictures.

The first hurdle is that you’ll need to know which state—
and hopefully which county—your family lived in.

The pictures are searchable by location.

For instance, when I put in Illinois
there were 4,879 images.
When I typed in Saline County, Illinois
it showed me 25 images. (A much easier number to search through!)
Turns out, of those 25, I found 8 pictures of my grandparent’s farm.

The second hurdle is that there are no names attached.
The people in the photographs are identified only by place.

For me, I knew these were my grandparents because,
years ago, two of my older family members had saved newspaper articles
that showed a couple of these photos and identified the people in them.

Also, I recognized my Granny.

my grandparents & their farm
Southern Illinois, 1939
the road in / Annabelle Hardesty and her canning
Loomis Hardesty and his hogs / two calves and a kitten

photos by Arthur Rothstein,
Farm Security Administration (FSA)


There are moments when
time stands still…
That fraction of a second captured
on that tiny piece of sensitive film.

– Dorothea Lange

When I started researching Dorothea Lange, I knew
about this connection between her FSA colleague and my family in Southern Illinois.
What I didn’t know was the connection between
Lange’s work and my hometown in Northern California.

House Being Moved
Berryessa Valley, 1956
photo by Pirkle Jones

One last grape harvest
photo by Dorothea Lange

 

In the late 1950s,
Life Magazine paid Dorothea Lange $1000 to take
before & after photographs of a town
impacted by dam construction.



The town’s name was Monticello.
It was less than an hour drive from Vacaville, where I grew up.

As a kid, I remember hearing about how there’d once
been a town under our local lake…
but I never got any details.

.

At Monticello,
Dorothea Lange, along with her assistant Pirkle Jones,
15
spent a year taking pictures of people and listening their stories.

They heard stories about a town of more than 250 people,
on land where families had farmed for decades.
They heard about evenings of live music at the local tavern,
and ‘the best’ swimming hole in Putah Creek,
and they heard about the Monticello Annual Rodeo.

She was tired [but] her face and her eyes were alive.
She was a tiny, little thing… She had a crippled leg.
If you didn’t know it, you wouldn’t notice it, hardly,
except when she was tired, when she sort of
pulled that leg along.

– Robert McKenzie
describing Dorothea Lange
(his family owned Cook, McKenzie, & Son
the General Store in Monticello) 16

.

Monticello General Store 1893-1957
The last building to be razed.
photo by Pirkle Jones

.

There are still people in the surrounding towns
who remember coming to Monticello for the rodeo.14
It started with a big bonfire and had gunnysack races,
and a community cookout.

As the dam went in, the people moved out.
Homes, business, trees, and roads: all were downed, cleared, or burned.
The Berryessa Valley disappeared under 125 feet of water.

The dam began generating electricity,
but its main use is that it created a reservoir, which stores water for irrigating crops.

The brand new lake was quickly set up for recreation.
I remember my own family, in the 1960s & 1970s, driving to Berryessa Lake to picnic and swim.

.

When Life Magazine saw Lange and Jones’ photos,
they realized these pictures weren’t nearly sympathetic enough to the interests of the dam,
and they declined to publish even one.
Thankfully, though, they returned the rights to the photos to Lange and Jones.

In November 1960,
Dorothea Lange and Pirkle Jones published the photographs of Monticello
in Aperture, the magazine Lange had co-founded in 1952.
They titled the piece Death of a Valley. 12

.

Berryessa Valley, 1956
photo by Dorothea Lange

From peak to peak,
from the Vaca Mountains to the Cedar Roughs,
this was a valley eleven miles long,
two and one-half miles wide.
Warm sunny and quiet, it was a place
of settled homes and deep loam soil.
It was a place of cattle and horses,
of pears and grapes, alfalfa and grain.
It had never known a crop failure.

It contained the town of Monticello, a center
with only one store, two gas pumps,

a small hotel, and a roadside stop, ‘The Hub’

And the valley held generations in its palm.

– from Death of a Valley
by Dorothea Lange and Pirkle Jones
Aperture Magazine 12
November 1960

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Take-Away Box

This benefit of seeing
can come only if you pause a while,
extricate yourself from the maddening mob of
quick impressions ceaselessly battering our lives,
and look, thoughtfully,
at a quiet image.

The viewer must be willing

to pause, to look again.

– Dorothea Lange

.


sky-t-tray.us
© Kelly J Hardesty 2022

Thoughts? Questions?
Scroll down to the endand you can leave me note!
Always so lovely to hear from you.

—————————
notes & footnotes

1.
Dorothea Lange: A Life Beyond Limits (2009)
by Linda Gordon

2.
In the 1950s, Dorothea Lange taught photography at
the California School of Fine Arts.
Ansel Adams and Imogen Cunningham also taught there.
The school is now called San Francisco Art Institute.

Lange gave her students an assignment:
Take a photo called, “Where I Live.”
Imogen Cunningham then challenged Lange to do that same assignment herself.
So Lange brought in a series of photographs of
her own polio-stricken foot to show her students.
These was the only “self portraits” Lange ever took.

Note: Unfortunately, I couldn’t get permission to reprint this photo.
But you can see it here:
https://dorothealange.museumca.org/image/untitled-dorothea-langes-foot/A67.137.57016.11/

3.
Restless Spirit: The Life and Work of Dorothea Lange
(1998)
by Elizabeth Partridge

The words that come
direct from the people are the greatest.

Dorothea Lange
quoted in ‘Restlest Spirit’ by Elizabeth Partridge

4.
New York Historical Soceity
https://wams.nyhistory.org/confidence-and-crises/great-depression/dorothea-lange/

5.
Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning (2014)
a PBS video by Dyanna Taylor
(Paul Taylor’s granddaughter)

6.
In 1913, Dorothea Lange worked in the photography studio of Arnold Genthe.
Genthe was famous for his photos of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake
and for portraits of dancers, especially Isadora Duncan.
He left San Francisco in 1911,
and lived in New York for the rest of his life.
As opposed to Dorothea Lange, who left New York in 1918,
and lived in the San Francisco area for the rest of her life.
(Source: Linda Gordon see footnote #1)

7.
An American Exodus: A Record of Human Erosion (1939)
by Dorothea Lange and Paul S Taylor

To emphasis their commitment to letting
the migrant workers speak for themselves,
the end papers of their book are row after row of quotes from
the people Lange was photographing.

Lange & Taylor worked hard on this book,
but it was not a commercial success and got very few reviews.
Most likely, it was ignored because everyone was focused
on the growing war in Europe.

Personal note:
If there were ever a book that needed a reissue, this is it!
The only copies of An American Exodus that I could find for sale
cost between $300 to $2000 each!

8.
The woman in the picture is Florence Owens Thompson.
Dorothea Lange took seven photos of her that day,
with various combinations of her seven children.
Thompson was born in 1903 on Cherokee land in Oklahoma.
She was 32 years old the day she met Lange.

9.
Manzanar National Historic Site
https://www.nps.gov/manz/index.htm

10.
Arthur Rothstein on L Street, Washington, D.C
January 1938
photo by Russell Lee
Library of Congress

Six FSA photographers took more than 270,000 photos between
1935 and 1943. Their names are Dorothea Lange, Arthur Rothstein,
Ben Shahn, Margaret Bourke-White, Walker Evans, and Russell Lee.
Arthur Rothstein took around 80,000 (or about 30%) of these pictures.

By the way, the black circle you see on Rothstein’s shoulder
is a hole punch in the negative.
The FSA used a hole punch to mark the images that didn’t need to be printed.
(Some of the photographers called this practice ‘barbaric’)

11.
The Library of Congress
has a searchable treasure trove of FSA photos.
https://www.loc.gov/pictures/collection/fsa/
On this website (just under Lange’s photo of the Migrant Mother),
you’ll see a box labelled “search this collection”.
Try typing in the county and state where your family lived.
I’d love to hear what you find.

12.
Aperture Magazine was co-founded in 1952
by Dorothea Lange, Ansel Adams, and others.
https://aperture.org/magazine/

from the Aperture website:
“Aperture, a not-for-profit foundation,
connects the photo community and its audiences
with the most inspiring work, the sharpest ideas,
and with each other—in print, in person, and online.”


13.
There was a show about the internment camps at the National Archives in 2017
https://www.archives.gov/news/articles/japanese-internment-75th-anniversary


14.
The lost town of Monticello
a Davisville Radio interview by Bill Buchanan
with guests Carol Fitzpatrick, whose family lived in Monticello, and
Woody Fridae, president of the Historical Society of Winters and a former mayor of Winters.
May 16, 2022
https://kdrt.org/audio/davisville-may-16-2022-lost-town-monticello?fbclid=IwAR2gZTMZPaWjilgtzYTWECIkSgHgS73nIh1DdRGLK-jVuoYA_MCLVmjxKJg

15.
We knew that we were seeing and recording for the last time—
the orchards in bloom, the beautiful home with its mature, leafy walnut trees,
the McKenzie Store, the harvesting of the pears, grapes and grain…
the cutting of an ancient oak tree and the
sudden flight of a flock of birds from its branches as
it crashed to the ground…
It is important to document…what no longer exists.
Perhaps humankind can learn from this record and reconsider
before irreversible changes are made…


– Pirkle Jones
from his book Berryessa Valley: The Last Year
published to accompany an exhibit in 1994
by the Vacaville Museum
https://vacavillemuseum.org/

15.
When they were forced to leave in 1957,
the owners of the Monticello general store bought a hardware store in a nearby town
my hometown of Vacaville—and that same family still owns it to this day!

From the website of Pacific Ace Hardware in Vacaville, California:

More than a century ago, before Lake Berryessa was a lake,
William “W.D.” McKenzie and his son Albert “Bruz” McKenzie
ran a general store called Cook, McKenzie, & Son in Monticello, California.

When Monticello citizens were told to make way for the Monticello Dam and Lake Berryessa,
Bruz and his son Albert Jr. “Sandy” McKenzie bought and relocated to
an already existing hardware store in Vacaville called Pacific Hardware.

“When the store got too busy, Sandy invited his cousin Jim McKenzie
to help as a partner. Just out of the Marine Corp., Jim was happy to comply.
In 1980, Sandy’s son, David McKenzie, came to help out and then never left.
Today, David and his cousin, Scott McKenzie, run the store and are
well known for their complementing personalities.

“Like his father,
David’s son, Ian McKenzie, came to the store after
graduating from Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo
to continue as the fifth generation to run the business.

Pacific Ace Hardware stands as one of the few
small-town businesses left in Vacaville.

Mural honoring Monticello
on the side of Pacific Ace Hardware store
Merchant Street, Vacaville, California
now owned by the 5th generation of McKenzie family.

4 thoughts on “Holding Still”

  1. Kelly–Once again, you’ve provided me (and others) with a slice of life that seems so alive, as if it is breathing. I shall pass this along to my friend Jeannine Herron whose late husband Matt Herron was, I believe, a student of Dorthea Lange. In the 1960’s, he and his family moved to the South where Matt became a significant photographer/photojournalist of the Civil Rights Movement. Do look him up–he was and his photographs, which you will probably recognize, are important.
    Thank you again for including me. Pat

    1. Thank you, Pat! I’m so glad you liked the post.
      I found Matt Herron’s website. His work looks amazing. I’ll add a link below.
      Thank you again for reading and for your kind words.
      Much love – Kelly

  2. Thanks for sharing all this, Kelly! I love the Monticello connection – I also remember hearing about the town under Lake Berryessa. It’s amazing how quickly a community can be relegated to history if any record is discouraged.

    When I was working on a production of Grapes of Wrath in grad school, Lange’s photos were a fantastic resource.

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