Musings of Navigating The Finite remainder of life from Porchville, with the hope of a glimpse of The Infinite

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Old Photographs

Click to view full size, Carman Junction Branch Line
VW Busman posted a wonderful photograph on his blog. 

Lasalle River Ramblings, Ramblings of One Sort or Another

It was taken near his boyhood home of Charleswood, Winnipeg, Manitoba.  It is the Carman Junction branch line previously owned by CNR, but now owned by C.E.M.R  The line goes from Winnipeg to the town of Carman, Manitoba.  I take it from snooping around the Internet that Carman Junction is actually the station connecting this branch to the main located on Wilkes Avenue near the intersection with Harstone Road.  VW Busman took the picture in 1974.   I would never have guessed that this photo was taken near Winnipeg.  It seems to be way out in the country.  More snooping about the Internet revealed that there was a train collision near here back in 1956., Red Board At Carman Junction

What I like about this photo is the play of light in it.  You must view the photo full size to get the effect.  We didn't know that VW Busman is an Impressionist yet that is how this photo strikes me.  It seems to emphasize the play of light in the natural world, one of the hallmarks of Impressionism.  Every thing on the left side of the fence has a different quality in the light reflected back to the viewer than the area to right of the fence.  The fence also seems to be the demarcation between objects and background.  The rails and to a lesser degree the ties have an intensity of brightness that grabs the eye and makes it want to look off into the vanishing point and instills a bittersweet loneliness in the heart.  You look off into that unending distance and you just want to walk forever down the line.  What inspired a young man in his late teens or early 20s to climb a signal tower and take this photo?   He couldn't have known that 37 years later and a 1000 miles away, a man stepping through the threshold of the autumn of his life would stare at his photo in the middle of the night and feel wanderlust.
Click To View Full Size

VW Busman's photo reminded me of several others.  This one is on the cover of Judson Jerome's book Flight From Innocence.  I have no idea where this photograph was taken but I would love to drive down that road.

Edit 5-7-11:  (This edit was lost also).  The cover photo was taken by Carl Mydans and is courtesy of the Library of Congress.  Mydans was a photographer for the Farm Security Administration and later a photojournalist for Life. 

Wikipedia, Carl Mydans

Edit 5-7-11: I just edited my post.  Instead of making the changes I wanted it deleted everything from this point down.  I lost two photos and my text that was below this point.  It almost happened to me the other day with the Hulton Bridge post. Fortunately I caught the problem before I published.  I closed out page without publishing and did not lose anything.  What the hell is going on?

Repost Of Lost Content:  The content below has been re-posted after the loss noted above.  It will not be exactly the same as the original content.

My father took the following two photos at my maternal grandfather's farm in Porter Township, Clarion County, Pennsylvania back in 1952.  It shows to a lesser degree the same play of light as the railroad photo above. .

These photos tug at my heart.  A place lost. The house is still there owned now by people out of the family, but the farm and outbuildings are gone.  The ground was destroyed by poorly restored strip mining after the family sold the farm in the early 70's while I was in the service.  I remember of seeing it when I first got out of the service.  The out buildings had all been torn down.  The spoil pile from the strip mine touched the house.  I wanted to cry and vowed I would never go by the place again.  Ten years later I broke the vow and went back to have a look. The ground was somewhat restored but nothing like it was. Black busted shale with scrappy pine trees growing on it.   I doubt you could farm it now. A very nice couple bought the place from the mining company that destroyed the land. They remodeled the house and built a very nice multi-bay garage. They are happy with their place, and I am glad for them. Yet a piece of me died with the loss of the farm.  It was not valuable, a hardscrabble affair on poor ground with bad water, but some of the best memories of my childhood occurred on that farm.  As I said a place lost.

Here is my mother's family re-union in 1952 at the farm.  My Dad took the picture.  All the adults in this photo are dead with exception of the tallest gentlemen in the back, and the two women seated to the right.  I am the first kid on the left, and my mother is behind me.

This is the same house as the photo above in about 1897 with my great grandparents.  My grandfather (wearing the tie in the 1952 photo) is the child with the white shirt behind the sheep.  The oldest son holding the rifle died of malaria in the Philippines.  The kid with the large ears was a neighbor.


  1. Thanks for posting the Carman Jct. photo. Funny how those old sepia toned photographs draws one 'into them'. I used to shoot quite a bit of black and white with my earlier cameras, even when I had my Pentax SP1000 SLR.
    You're right about all 4 of your pics on this post, you just feel like getting up and walking right into the picture, and carrying on where the photographer left off.
    I think, ( from what little I know ), when a photo has that kind of ' pull ' , the photographer ( artist), has met his mark, as it were.
    Excellent post Sextant. 10 out of 10.
    You must have some more photo gems in one of your old shoeboxes, that need to be dusted off again, no ?

  2. Yes.....who knew...37 years later and 1000 miles away, this little old insignificant photo would be rediscovered.
    Well......good for both of us and last but not least, y(our) readers.

  3. If my post is 10 out of 10 it is only because your photo gave it a 9.9 before I even started writing.

    The pull you speak of is a concept described by Roland Barthes in his book Camera Lucida. Every photograph has two qualities: studium and punctum. Studium is the physical, cultural, and political aspects of the photograph...stuff that everyone will see. Railroad tracks, fence, bushes, ties, prairie, clouds. Punctum is that which pierces the heart. For many people there will be nothing in your photo that has the least bit of punctum. There are no people, no animals, no celebrities, nothing to latch an emotional response. "Its a picture of some dumb railroad tracks in the middle of nowhere. Whats the big deal?" Yet to weirdos like VW Busman, Old Baguette, and Sextant the punctum is dripping off this photo. We want to climb in the photo and walk 5 miles down the track, hear the buzz of the bees working the blossoms in the bushes, feel the sun on our back, the breeze blow through our hair, and hear the meadowlark call across the meadow. For me, an especially weird weirdo, I want to feel the bittersweet melancholy of the loneliness pervade my Soul.

    When I think of punctum, another set of images comes to mind possibly due to the recency of the events. This one surprises me. I spoke of watching the royal wedding on TV. There runs through my mind thousands of images of the wedding. Please realize I am not one given to celebrity, weddings, royalty, or fancy trappings. Yet different scenes from the wedding seemed to have captured my imagination...the various shots of William and Kate at the alter, the carriage ride back to Buckingham Palace, and of course the kiss. The studium? The dashing prince, beautiful young woman, huge cathedral, the horses, and the carriage. But for me there was a punctum in all these images that took me off guard. That punctum was an optimism for the future. The youth, the confidence, the simple beauty of this young woman, a commoner, struck me that she is going to be the best thing that has happened to the House Of Windsor and the British Monarchy in a very long time. Small matters in the overall world, yet I this optimism that Kate in her own small way may very well make the world a slightly better place.