Sunday, August 19, 2007

wheels of the head (or when cowboys become constructivists...)


i've started looking at a lot more photo scrapbooks at the flea market, hoping to find old music photos; and it's amazing how completely uninteresting the majority of family photos can be. the scrapbook that contained the above photo was already a cut above the usual drivel, mainly because of the hand scrawled captions to photos of rodeos, cowboys, and rural scenes in kansas, wyoming, and oaklahoma circa 1915. of course, the last thing i thought i'd come across in an album like this would be a photo captioned "the wheels of the head".

i'm wondering how in the world someone in rural kansas decided to take a double exposure that looks right out of rodchenko's oevre? i'd like to say i've discovered the life's work of an unknown cowboy photographer who is the missing link between the early american prarie and the avant garde; but there's not a single other image in the scrapbook that is remotely related to this one - technically or stylistically. based on everything else in the book, i'm pretty sure the person who took this photo knew nothing about the photography and collage work of the russian constructivists, much less the work of man ray or the dada and surrealists. the image reminds me a bit of raul hausmann's dada sculpture of 1919 of a wooden head with a tape measure and other things affixed to it.

when i blew up the image, i noticed the distant face in the upper right, which adds a whole other level of victorian pathos, and the feeling of germaine dulac's film the seashell and the clergyman.

there are other photos in the book that i'll probably post - standard faire, but interesting for the subjects or the arrangement of photos and captions/drawings on the page; some of it compelling, but none as remarkable as this...

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Blogger squareamerica said...

Holy cow that's great!! Given the fact there was nothing else like it in the album it was probably a mistake but how great is it that rather than throwing it out they not only kept it but also gave it a title that's as amazing as the photo itself! I love those moments in family albums when the family narrative is broken by a photo thats pleasures are almost purely visual. If you ever want to trade/sell this one please let me know!!

2:35 PM  
Blogger sroden said...

hey, yeah, i was pretty surprised by it. i figured it was a mistake, but indeed strange it ended up prominently with at title, which is nice. i'm going to post some other things tomorrow from it. there's actually more randomness to the whole thing than i noticed at first, but nothing else like that one. i'll probably hang on to this one, but if i do decide to part with it, i'll definitely let you know.

12:37 AM  
Blogger bloggsy said...

it sorta looks like the photographer or a filmmaker is ghostly background image (just from the way the cuff from his arm is around that "machine" thing). i want to see this in person! it's incredibly moholy-nagy self portrait like. i'm stunned by this one. i'll never whine when you bend for 78s, postcards or big piles of dirt again...

7:58 AM  

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