Great Ohio River Flood of 1937, The (Images of America)

Bessie Tomlin & the Ohio River Flood of 1937
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At the mercy of others Sideways arrangement facing the margin Below Town Photographic representation realism Deprivation. Their dog extreme left seems to be barking angrily at the blacks and the car they are travelling in appears to be about to run them down. The poster is a picture-within-a-picture. It is a characteristic of this pictorial device that it heightens the realism of the containing picture, hence the illusionism of the photograph is strengthened by the poster within it; conversely, the encompassing photograph heightens the artificiality of the poster.

The contrast between the poster's artificiality and the photograph's realism is also a consequence of the types and facial expressions of the people represented: the whites are idealised stereotypes, whereas the blacks are all unique human beings whose response to their predicament, and to the presence of the camerawoman, varies enormously. At least four blacks look out of the photograph towards the photographer, towards the viewer; they serve as interlocutors linking us to the action of the picture.

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A cable cuts across the top right-hand corner of the image and in so doing crosses out the word 'living' as if negating the Association of Manufacturers' over-- optimistic headline. The division of the picture into two parts, into two separate worlds, embodies pictorially a social division between the races, that is, it segregates the blacks from the whites. Louisville was then a segregated city. It is worth pausing to consider the ideological implications of the image chosen by the National Association of Manufacturers to convey their message of cheer.

By representing a family of whites the image conveniently overlooks the existence of millions of non-whites in America; by representing the man of the family as the dominant figure - he occupies the centre of the composition, he drives the car, he is in charge of the family's destiny - the image reinforces patriarchy; by typifying the American way of life in terms of an ideal family the image reinforces the concept of the nuclear family unit as the norm to which all should aspire; by representing the American way of life as a car journey the image reveals the American dependence upon technology, in particular the importance of the automobile industry to the American economy and the obsessive relationship between Americans and their cars.

The car journey serves as a metaphor for the American way of life; a journey whose starting point and destination and reason for travelling are not specified by the image: it seems to say 'What matters is to travel, never mind where we have come from, or where we are going'. And this life journey is to be undertaken by each family by itself cocooned against the environment, the landscape, by a metal shroud - the car. Work, industry, the city, social relations outside the family, agricultural production - these are all conspicuous by their absence from the image. What the National Association of Manufacturers signally fail to mention is manufacture itself.

The slogans of the poster-'World's highest standard of living' and 'There's no way like the American way' accentuate the irony of the contrast.

Although Bourke-White did not arrange this situation in order to make a political point, her mind was clearly alert for such a possibility - and months spent documenting poverty in the South with Erskine Caldwell had developed her social conscience - because she seized upon the adventitious juxtaposition of blacks and poster with alacrity. The high speed of the camera shutter, the ability of the camera to capture a fleeting moment, a temporary montage juxtaposition, gives the photographer a clear advantage over the painter in such situations.

Bourke-White's photograph explodes the bourgeois myth that the artist creates order out of chaos. What the artist, the photographer, does in choosing a motif, and in framing it in his or her viewfinder, is to select and to foreground some relationships at the expense of other relationships since an image can only depict a part of reality, it cannot encompass the totality of the world. These qualifications indicate the limitations of a single photograph as a vehicle of information.

Presumably, if it were otherwise we would not find photographs meaningful. However, this reproduction is never simple duplication because the medium itself always transforms those codes and structures to some extent; for example, the Bourke-White photograph reproduces the perception of clothing codes and fashion styles employed by Americans in the late s but because the photograph is a black-and-white one, the colour dimension of the clothing code has been eliminated.

One crucial factor governing the interpretation of images is their display context. When Bourke-White's photograph was published in Life as part of a photo-essay on the Ohio River flood disaster ifs reference to a particular emergency was fixed not by its internal information but by the accompanying photographs, captions and text.

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Once detached from that context the photograph was free to acquire a much more general signification. Since the photograph itself makes no reference to a flood or to Louisville, only those featured in the photograph, or who helped to produce it, or who read the article in Life would be aware of its specific spatio-- temporal point of origin.

Joseph Goebbels, a Nazi minister, was thus able to appropriate the photograph's critical content for the purposes of German propaganda by adding to it the caption 'Thank God, we have a better way'. The former concern natural phenomena as yet outside human control, for example, natural disasters and death; the latter concern man-made conditions: 'conditions neither permanent nor necessary, conditions of a certain time and place: racial discrimination, police brutality, unemployment, the Depression … 3 Bourke-White's photograph made a transition from Stott's first category to his second: it began life as a human document and later became a social document.

What I have been trying to clarify is how the meaning of Bourke-White's photograph is established. There is, however, a difference between the meaning of a statement, or an image, and its truth.

I can say to a class of students in a windowless basement room 'It's raining outside' - a meaningful statement - but to check the truth of this statement the students would need to look outside empirical verification. Since all languages, all sign systems, can be used to tell lies, the decision as to whether the statement made by a photograph is true or not is the viewer's responsibility; it is a judgement which he or she makes after comparing the photographic statement with empirical observations or with other cultural knowledge. Few people would have accepted Bourke-White's record of a particular emergency as an illustration of a more general truth unless the condition of the majority of black Americans during the Depression era had been significantly worse than that experienced by the majority of whites, unless racial segregation had been endemic in the s.

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Just so long as economic exploitation and racial discrimination persists in the United States, the critical realism of Bourke-White's photograph will remain pertinent, the meaning of her picture will remain true. The previous issue carried an extensive photo documentation of the flooding. Underneath her photograph appeared the headline 'The flood leaves its victims on the bread line'.

Adding to the misery was the fact that the disaster came during the depths of the Great Depression, when so many families already were struggling simply to put food on their tables.


Here is a fond look back at the railroad's mammoth steam locomotives and the diesels that replaced them, its bustling passenger stations and much more. The Images of Rail series celebrates the history of rail, trolley, streetcar and subway transportation across the country, Using archival photos, this book, like all in the series, presents the people, places, and events that helped revoluntionize transportation and commerce in the 19th and 20th century America. I'm a storyteller, and the hospital clearly had a story to tell. I appreciate the opportunity that the hospital gave me.

I am very pleased with the results and I hope the hospital is pleased, too. Cabell Huntington Hospital was created to care for the community, and that's the whole theme of the book.

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The community really was responsible for building this hospital. It offers glimpses of Marshall students at work and play, records the proud accomplishments of those who guided the school to its destiny, and provides an informative look at the steady growth of the campus over the years.

The book traces how overnight the nation's demand for coal turned sleepy little places into boomtowns and helped cities like Charleston and Huntington prosper as gateways to and from the coalfields. Some vintage photographs recall key historical events and the people and places that made Cabell County the thriving place it is today. In addition, a special section of photographs offers a colorful look at the Marshall campus.

Nor is it a travel guide, although we hope some readers, after taking an armchair tour in the se pages, will be encouraged to hit the road, exploring our state firsthand. Note : The files used in this section are quite large, so allow a few moments for loading the graphics on each of the 13 pages in the excerpt. Blazer, as it traveled the Ohio from Huntington, West Virginia, to Pittsburgh, up the Allegheny and the Monongahela rivers, then back downriver to Huntington. In his book, Casto introduces readers to the Blazer's crew and to the river itself, while offering a look back at the history of commerce on the busy, hardworking Ohio.

Local author outlines tragedy of flood | The Flood |

The book is out of print. Huntington founded the town in The narrative is illustrated with more than period black-and-white photographs and a section of color photographs offering a contemporary view of the city.

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The Great Ohio River Flood of (Images of America) [James E. Casto] on *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. From the time settlers first. Editorial Reviews. Review. Title: Read all about it. Author: Staff Writer Publisher: The Herald-Dispatch Date: 2/25/ WHAT: A page book with

The book, long out of print, is today eagerly sought by collectors. They Came by the Thousands West Virginia's Immigrants , Wonderful West Virginia , March , reporting on the waves of settlers who crossed the mountains to make West Virginia their homes.