Thursday, January 17, 2013

Dorothea Lange Again - Orange County NC, 1939

It's probably a good thing that Dorothea Lange only spent a short time in North Carolina, or I'd overwhelm readers with photos of her subjects that are still hanging around after 74 years!

While talking to Keith Allen at a recent artist reception we got around to the recent Dorothea Lange find I wrote about in the previous blog.  Keith, who lives in the Cedar Grove area of North Carolina, asked if I knew there was another country store captured by Ms. Lange, and did I know it was also still standing.  Of course I didn't, but I wanted to know everything Keith knew about the store! This was Thursday night.

The next day I found the Lange picture (actually there are two) in the Library of Congress collection.  The photo shows a group of ballplayers and others getting ready for their July 4th baseball game at a ball field down the road.

By early Sunday morning I was at the rural crossroads known as Cedar Grove shooting away at the cluster of buildings. Seems my enthusiasm has me treating this as a breaking news story, even though the event happened seven decades ago! Forgive me.

The Cedar Grove store has a sign identifying it as the "C. H. Pender Grocery". It appears to no longer be open for business, but the structure is in much better condition than the previous Person County store.

As typical of rural crossroad communities, the intersection has several other buildings.  Another commercial building (appearing to be of the same period) sits on an adjacent corner.  The current day post office, a small, cinder block structure sits to the immediate right of the Pender store.

This route, heading north off of Hwy. 70 through Efland makes a great Sunday afternoon drive.  Before the afternoon ends you'll have a serious craving for an RC Cola and a Moon Pie!

(As always, you can click on an image for a larger version. If anyone knows more about Cedar Grove please comment with the information. Thanks...)

Saturday, January 5, 2013

A Brush With Our Past - Person County NC, 1939

Dorothea Lange was one of about a dozen photographers sent out by the Farm Security Administration to document rural poverty during the Great Depression. Dorothea's iconic work helped change the style and power of documentary photography.

Most of her images depict migrant farm workers in the West and the Japanese-American resettlement during World War II. But during July of 1939 Dorothea spent several weeks documenting rural life in the central Piedmont area of North Carolina.  

The photograph above was taken during this trip and remains one of the most-published Lange photographs. The "Country Store on a Dirt Road on a Sunday Afternoon" is prominently featured on the Library of Congress photography site.

As I type this post I sit no more than fifteen miles from the location of this store.  It is identified in Lange's notes as the "Bayne's Store", which is how I discovered the image, as I was researching the Bayne's Store in  nearby Caswell County.  Although the store in the photo might actually be the Bain's Store, by the time I researched the location I realized the Lange-version store might still be standing.

Fortunate for me, it is.  I found it . Here it is today. . .
As you can see, it's a little worse for wear - the pumps are missing, along with those great advertising signs and the entire left wing of the structure. But, after seventy-four years, it's still there! 

I've spent hours comparing both images and am fascinated that the stones supporting the porch are the original ones, the siding still has the nail holes from the signs, and on and on...

No doubt I've stood in the tracks of Ansel Adams while photographing in Yosemite, but it's special knowing that Dorothea Lange captured one of the iconic photographs of the previous century from the very spot I was standing.

The property is private and I believe the owner lives immediately across the road, but if you would like directions, let me know.

FYI: If you click on the images they will display a larger version.