Kodachrome Folk Art

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The year is 1957, although the photograph speaks so eloquently of that moment of middle-class ascension that you scarcely need to be told the date. The kitchen, to our eyes virtually a museum piece with its revealing strip of wallpaper, cheery clock, and laminate cupboard, belongs to a house we can easily summon up in imagination; this one stood in Tiverton, Rhode Island. Earle Stewart, who lived there, has pointed his camera at some visitors, names no longer known, resulting in a wonderful and slightly sinister portrait (note the red-eyed child and the weirdly titled book that is so prominently featured). The picture came to our attention through the efforts of Guy Stricherz, a New York City photo historian, who is collecting early examples of amateur work in Kodachrome slide film, which came on the scene in 1935 and was taken up by novices after World War II when cheaper 35-mm cameras became widely available. Stricherz plans to publish a book accompanied by an exhibit of a hundred of the best of what he calls “photographic folk art,” prized, he writes, like the folk art we’re more familiar with, for its “frankness, honesty and vigor.”

We continue to ask our readers to send unusual and unpublished old photographs to Carla Davidson at American Heritage, Forbes Building, 60 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10011. Please send a copy of any irreplaceable materials, include return postage, and do not mail glass negatives. We will pay fifty dollars for each one that is run.