Arthur Rothstein's Most Famous Dustbowl Photo

Discussion in 'Photographers' started by Macwax, Feb 5, 2007.

  1. Macwax

    Macwax Member

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    I downloaded a jpg of Arthur Rothstein's "Farmer and Sons in Cimmaron County" from the Farm Security Administration collection of the Library of Congress.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/40377516@N00/381327511/

    It has always been one of my favorite photos and the scanned print is far from perfect. I spent a couple of hours with the clone tool to remove scratches, dirt and other imperfections. It is a truly beautiful photograph. Although I'm a dedicated film and chemical guy, you've got to hand it hand it to technology in a situation like this.

    A huge TIFF file is available which should be capable of yielding an excellent print. The nice thing is that these photos are in the public domain. Rothstein's images cannot be use in advertising etc.

    John
     
  2. Eve Rothstein

    Eve Rothstein Member

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    Interesting!

    Hi John

    I'm also very interested in this photograph and it looks great. Can you tell me why you decided to do this? Just curious.

    Thanks

    Eve

     
  3. jstraw

    jstraw Member

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    Eve, are you related to Arthur? If so, you've surely made a very serendipitous first post on APUG.
     
  4. copake_ham

    copake_ham Inactive

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    Or maybe Eve possess the rights to the photo?
     
  5. Macwax

    Macwax Member

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    My take on the information provided on the FSA site is that the photos may be duplicated. Many photos included Dorthea Lange's famous Migrant Mother appears to be completely without restriction.

    Arthur Rothstein's prints may be downloaded, but may not be used in advertising. If you want to make a print or serve as wallpaper on your computer as my version of Farmer and Sons is, you are free to do so. Please read the fine print for yourself and make your own decision.

    I just read that the photo may have been staged, but that is of no concern to me. I don't imagine that Rothstein banged away at 7 frames per second and just happened upon the most perfect of leg positions. It happened. It's beautiful. It's very painterly.

    I'm a bit confused as to whether the original was actually done on Kodachrome. Does anyone have an answer to that question?

    John
     
  6. Allen Friday

    Allen Friday Member

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    This photo was recreated in either the 80s or 90s, showing the children in the photo as adults with their children, walking the same ground. It is lush and green. The juxtaposition between the two photos is very striking.
     
  7. Eve Rothstein

    Eve Rothstein Member

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    John, you are right, Arthur Rothstein was my father. The photo was not staged. It was the last photo on a roll of film he was shooting when the dust storm struck. He was walking away when he turned and saw the scene, he shot it. Dad was very proud of this photo as well as all the photographs he did for the FSA. He was invited back later and met the youngest boy as a grown man walking in the same area. It is an amazing transition.
     
  8. SuzanneR

    SuzanneR Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Eve.. welcome to APUG, and thank you for the background on the photograph. It's often that last frame on a roll that's really excellent. Your father did some great work.
     
  9. Dave Miller

    Dave Miller Member

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    It’s one of the iconic images of the last century, and one that I have always thought showed the futility of man challenging nature.
    Thanks for embellishing the story Eve.
     
  10. Bill Mitchell

    Bill Mitchell Member

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    Because it is his most famous photograph, I think that the confusion about it being staged resulted from the admitted staging of another dustbowl image where a cow skull was inserted/moved to intensify the composition.
    Incidentally, is Mr. Rothstein still alive?
     
  11. doughowk

    doughowk Subscriber

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    From Wikipedia, born 1915, died 1985. They have a larger version of the image at Wikimedia
     
  12. Alex Hawley

    Alex Hawley Member

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    I'm always interested in any anecdotes from that region and era. My mother was a young child during all this in Gray County, Kansas.

    From all accounts I've heard, Mr. Rothstein's experience on that day was pretty typical. There was no way of warning residents about the formation and approach of the dust storms, save seeing them approach. And, despite popular legend, a lot of families stuck it out and stayed as this family did.
     
  13. Rob Skeoch

    Rob Skeoch Advertiser Advertiser

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    I bought a print of it years ago and it hangs in my new studio. Can you still purchase prints from LOC or just a digital file?
    -rob
     
  14. Macwax

    Macwax Member

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    Buying a copy of Rothstein's photo

    If you go to the FSA section of the Library of Congress, you will find information about buying photographs.

    John MacKechnie
     
  15. jgcull

    jgcull Subscriber

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    Wow. That's amazing.

    Seems odd that the older man is running ahead of the small child, doesn't it? Just a thought... neither here nor there.