Thursday, August 18, 2011

Welcome to "Dustbowl".


"Black Blizzards are coming.
And the bread lines.
Poverty is everywhere, now.
Shantytowns are a-springin' up...."



You don't have to read all of this, and you can just skip to the imagery below...
BUT if you do that, there are two things I want to mention:
1.) You're heart won't begin to race with the stories that have gone into this.
2.) You'll never understand this collection.

If nothing else, if you reallllllly aren't the reading type - at least read the 'facts' section.
This is one of those collection (truly) in which knowing the backstory to it, is actually knowing the whole story.


I have always loved history and the wildly beautiful, torn-up past. There's something (nothing short of) yearning & terribly haunting about things we cannot change, and something incredibly perfect about how photography can stir the memories of the past, like echoes; like it's rousing a symphony of ghosts. It's one of the only things (the only?) that can.

Enter Dustbowl.

What is Dustbowl?
The term "dustbowl" refers to an area in the United States stretching across the great plains (think Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas and the surrounding plains states) that were known for their incredibly violent and massive duststorms and everlasting droughts, during a period of time (approx. 1930-1936) in which those massive storms interwove themselves against another heartwrenching occurrence: The Great Depression. (approx 1929 - 1941).

The Great Depression (though a worldwide occurrence (also known as the: "Dirty Thirties") began in the USA, preceding WWII and was thrown into full motion when the stock market finally crashed on October 29, 1929. This date is forever known as: "Black Tuesday".

It remains one of the most heartbreaking and trying periods of American History, to date.


*Unemployment in the USA rose from 3% to 25% and over 13 million people lost their jobs.

*Incomes, on average, were reduced by 40%.

*2 million people became homeless.

*Thousands of schools found themselves with reduced hours and help, or were closed down completely.

*750,000 farms across the country were lost, due to bankruptcy.

*People in the mountain regions of the country, during this time, were often reduced to eating diets of only dandelions and blackberries.

*Many people became nomads, traveling across the country via highways and railroads. Many walked.

*20% of children were hungry and without any clothing, and many went without warm clothes in Winter.

*In coal mining regions, the % of malnourished children reached as high as 90%.
*40% of youth were neither in school or working.

*People set up working camps from scrap metals and boxes. These camps typically were in poverty, without proper sanitation, which quickly (and often) led to outbreaks of malaria, typhoid, smallpox, and tuberculosis.

*THE GREAT PLAINS STATES (THE "DUSTBOWL" REGION) WAS HIT THE HARDEST, due to it's violent windstorms that annihilated crops & homes.


Enter My Collection.

Now, you know my work and how I like my bittersweet and terribly sad imagery. And, If you've been following my work, you also know how I love historical imagery.

Earlier this year, I began to really fall in love with the human element in all things & The Great Depression is just such a skyscraper and testament to the human element.

I decided I wanted to begin a new collection - a storyboard, over time, that would be a nice contrast to my other work.

Stark B&W portraits. places. things. Just them - no clutter. Just their stories.

The Great Depression *is* a time of great struggle and sadness, but it's also a time of great strength (of human spirit) and great perseverance, showing what can be done (hard workers, migrants, nomads, homeless, illness, poverty, no money, no home, even. BUT, never giving up.)

I had to make this collection. This time in history fascinates me.

So what is this collection?

Simply this:

In "Dustbowl", I intend to recreate, image by image, the people, the courage, the stories, the untold moments, the strengths & weaknesses, and the REALITIES that existed during The Great Depression Era (Dustbowl Region) of American History.

This is a dirty, simple collection. It's not glitzy or stylized. And, It's nearly out of camera. It's purely the human element.

I thought it was the perfect time to begin B&W collection.

Don't look for pretty. Look for perseverance. People had to play roles.
Women were tough. Children were starving. Men were trying.
Love existed.

And, as with all of my work, look for the beauty and that small glimmer of grace and balance, because even in times like the Dustbowl, it was there.


I present the first 4 images of MANY MANY MANY to come.
These do not have names. This is a full story and it's just beginning.
Every image is untitled and I want all to be known simply as....


(to see these larger and in high res, please visit my 500PX account, for now)

I hope you are haunted. More to come.

With much love & West Coast Bound,

Ash | x


Adrienne McNellis said...

Can I just say, I teared up reading how people were surviving on dandelions and blackberries? I believe a lot of people born after devastation tend to not know how trying and horrible the circumstances were or they don't even recognise the devastating events. Bravo for bringing the terrible Depression to light. Beautiful. I will be eagerly awaiting the next images.

Annapurna Moffatt said...

Beautiful and sad. And yes, haunting. Good luck with the project!

Captured by Brooke Photography said...

So deep it gives me chills. Beautiful and haunting. Can't wait to see more!

Unknown said...

how beautiful. yes. it is hauntingly beautiful. the boy, i know, is beautiful.

Anonymous said...

Lovely images, Ash! My favorite might be the portrait of Alex. Love the grit. But it's hard to choose, all are beautiful. I've always been fascinated by this time period, so I love seeing this collection. xoxo

gorilla_ said...

I so dearly love this concept and I really love recognizing the photographers you have as your subjects in the images. All of the love that went into this shoot is obvious and sweet!

Dave said...

When I think about that time period, I think about there being a minimal safety net and the fact you could die from infections we consider trivial today or starvation or a hundred other things. In my mind people then must have been much more connected to the seasons and reality than currently is the case, at least in the US.

Unknown said...

your photos contain so much in them. This are stirring, and I can't wait to see more too!