Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Row Houses, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, August 1973, by Dick Swanson for DOCUMERICA, via U.S. National Archives Commons on flickr.

Swanson took this picture for DOCUMERICA, a photography program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). From 1972 to 1977, it hired over 100 photographers to “document subjects of environmental concern.” They created an archive of about 80,000 images. In addition to recording damage to the nation’s landscapes, the project captured “the era’s trends, fashions, problems, and achievements,” according to the Archives, which held an exhibit of the photos, “Searching for the Seventies,” in 2013.

Lens, France


Little house and garden of a coal minerLens, France, May 16, 1920, by Frédéric Gadmer, via Archives of the Planet Collection – Albert Kahn Museum /Département des Hauts-de-Seine (all three photos).

The city of Lens, once home to the Lens Mining Company, was largely destroyed in World War I. The photo above shows post-war temporary workers’ housing.

Avion, just south of Lens, was similarly devastated. The photos above and below show new houses on Rue Pascal on June 14, 1921.

The front sides of the new houses on Rue Pascal.

Avion was un coron (a mining village) of the Liévin Company, which had 9,695 employees at the start of WWI.

You can see these homes today here.

These autochromes are three of about seventy-two thousand that were commissioned and then archived by Albert Kahn, a wealthy French banker and pacifist, between 1909 and 1931. Kahn sent thirteen photographers and filmmakers to fifty countries “to fix, once and for all, aspects, practices, and modes of human activity whose fatal disappearance is no longer ‘a matter of time.'”* The resulting collection is called Archives de la Planète and now resides in its own museum at Kahn’s old suburban estate at Boulogne-Billancourt, just west of Paris. Since June 2016, the archive has also been available for viewing online here.


*words of Albert Kahn, 1912. Also, the above photos (A 21 376, A 27 779, A 27 788) are © Collection Archives de la Planète – Musée Albert-Kahn and used under its terms, here.

The Sunday porch: Bound Brook, N.J.

Bound Brook, N.J., Feb. 1936, porches, via Library of Congress“Back [?] porches of a series of identical houses. Bound Brook, New Jersey,” February 1936, by Carl Mydans, via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

The winter of 1935/1936 was one of the coldest of that decade in North America.  And the following summer brought the infamous 1936 heat wave.

Carl Mydans was working for the U.S. Resettlement Administration when he took this picture.  Shortly afterwards, he was hired by Life and is probably best remembered today for his war photography for the magazine.

February, month of despair,
with a skewered heart in the centre.

Margaret Atwood, from “February

The Sunday porch: behind Randolph Street

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Looking through a “slat screen” from the back porch of a house on Randolph Street (probably N.W.), Washington, D.C., May 1942, by John Ferrell, via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

OK, it’s possible that I’m easily amused.

Also, I have holiday shopping to do. . . and it’s Bloom Day.  (So more later.)

John Ferrell was a photographer for the Farm Security Administration when he took these photos.

Randolph Street, N.W., runs east-west through the Petworth neighborhood of Washington, D.C.

I’ve stayed in the front yard all my life.
I want a peek at the back.  .  .

— Gwendolyn Brooks, from “a song in the front yard