magyar moon

magyar moon

Thursday, April 14, 2016

WILLIAM GEDNEY




I had never heard of American photographer William Gedney (1932-1989) until very recently, when I was doing some research on Appalachia. Unfortunately, Gedney's work didn't receive much recognition until after his death. Over 5,000 of his photos are now digitally archived at Duke University.

Gedney's exclusively black & white images capture the raw, unapologetic intensity of the places to which he traveled - including India, New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. 
He aptly considered photography to be a form of poetry, and very often focused on the unintentional sexual intrigue of the average American male.

In 1964, Gedney spent over a month living with two poverty-stricken families in rural Kentucky. This sojourn (in my opinion)
yielded some of his most interesting work.

 Mud-covered young boy smoking
Leatherwood, Kentucky 1964

 



 Plucking a chicken





 Looking down the barrel of a shotgun







 Three girls in a kitchen







   




   








 Can't figure out what he's stomping




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23 comments:

  1. I had occasion to explore the Appalachians, particularly the hills of West Virginia, and the rural people there when I was a younger lady. It was an experience I will never forget. The work of this photographer reminds me of that time in my life. These photographs are raw, with a rare look into a place few of us have ever been. They capture more than a moment. Thank you for sharing.

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    1. It's truly another world apart from our own. It is nearly impossible to believe that this lifestyle exists, but it does. I've seen it here in Tennessee....ad I've seen similar things in Texas. Thanks for your input.

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  2. wonder whatever happened to those people who were photographed?

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    1. For some strange reason, 1964 doesn't seem so long ago....and yet it was indeed a lifetime ago. Some of the younger ones might still be alive. I'm wondering if any of them were able to move away from their poverty-stricken atmosphere.

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  3. Replies
    1. I had a difficult time choosing the photos. Perhaps some day I'll have a sequel.

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  4. The picture of the musicians - the guitar player has an amazing (to me) resemblance to Lyle Lovett. I checked and he was born in 1957 so was too young for it to have been him.

    I wonder how he managed to take so many photographs with the subjects seemingly unaware. The only one who seems to notice him is the baby being held by the young girl.

    I could be wrong but I have a feeling that these people are too proud to take advantage of any kind of social services that might be available. I know of individuals who eke out a pretty decent lifestyle through government aid. Of course that was 1964 when there probably weren't as many programs. You say there are people still living like this? Unfathomable to me.

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  5. I was surprised that some people still actually live like this in the rural areas of numerous states. I've seen it here in TN.

    As you said, there are a lot more government assistance programs nowadays - - and I think people are becoming less "proud" and more willing to accept it. But in some very rural areas, there are still people who probably don't even know what might be available.

    Hope this makes some sense - - I have a cat who is presently annoying the heck out of me as I'm writing.

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  6. Stunning work. Remarkable man. Thank you, Jon.

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    1. They are indeed stunning, Geo. And as Ms Martyr mentioned (in the comment above) it looks like most of the subjects are unaware of the photographer. His camera seems to be the eye of a ghost wandering in another world.

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  7. A shame many artist never receive the kudo's they deserve till after their gone. Those are some pretty impressive shots. The one shot that captured my attention was the young Lad with the plaid pants, and belt turned to the side. It was surprisingly very fashion forward, even for poverty.

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    1. I must admit that the lad in the plaid pants caught my eye for improper reasons....It's amazing that I noticed the unusual band of his wristwatch, but I didn't notice his belt!

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  8. I about to say, "Whatever happened to those subjects?" .. when Anne Marie beat me to the punch. Tho' certainly not 'entitled' my own 1964 was consumed with the Beatles and pastel princess phones.

    These hurt my heart ... in a good way.

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    1. I wish we could return to the days of Beatles and princess phones.....These photos are truly haunting - more like something out of movie rather than reality. I like the fact that they're in black and white. It adds to the intrigue.

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  9. I love the way these photos almost capture a type of melancholy. These could have been taken in my rural hometown. Sad but beautiful.

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    1. The haunting, melancholy aspect is what intrigued me the most.

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  10. Spectacular photographs, rich with story. I feel a sense of wonder perusing the exquisite detail, the freedom from posturing and pose, a fascination for the depth and beauty of humanity that challenges my reclusive nature.

    Thank you for this post, Jon.

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    1. I appreciate your input, Tomass - thanks for the visit!

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  11. I have some family from Appalachia, one of whom was a professional photographer in the 20s and 30s. I have trouble believing the older boys and men in these photos were just standing around with no shirts on at this time period. The photographer probably paid them to do that. Even the poorest white trash didn't go around shirtless.

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    1. Gedney lived with these families for several months, in 1964, during the broiling summer season. Since there was no air conditioning, I assume that rural men occasionally removed their shirts.

      I admittedly have included more shirtless photos in this post - - but the bulk of Gedney's photos have many more fully clothed men than shirtless ones.

      Since most of Gedney's photos remained unpublished when he died, he didn't gain anything financially from them. It seems rather ludicrous to think that his photos were purposefully "staged".

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  12. Since I missed these when you first posted them, I had to come back and take a look. Wow. These photos are amazing. Thanks so much for sharing them.

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