... her photographs-a trip to the store where you press your nose to the glass of the candy counter. It is hard to decide what you want, you want it all. The Welty photographs caress, call- You stare trying to decide and you can't. Which do you choose? My Eudora Welty photograph chose me.
As I leafed through a portfolio of collected art work belonging to a dear and distinguished gentleman-SB. I stopped to stare in amazement at a photograph. She stared back- powerful and ancient. Her picture was taken by Eudora Welty- I had heard about the Welty photographs and even had shelved a book devoted to her work. (Eudora Welty Photographs 1989)
Two portfolios of Welty's work were available- Palaemon Press' "Twenty Photographs," published by a native of my hometown, another distinguished gentleman, Stuart Wright, son of my childhood piano teacher. Distinguished gentleman and friend, SB, just happened to be professor and friend of publisher Wright.
As luck would have it SB- seeing a certain serendipity here- made a gift of A Woman of the Thirties/ Hinds Co/1935 to me. She watches, at the top of the stair, over all other talisman.
Of Woman- Eudora Welty said, " I think she lived on the road between here and Utica, where I used to go quite a bit, and where I took a lot of pictures. And I think I did see her a time of two after that. She has a very sensitive face, as you can see; she was well aware of her predicament in poverty, and had good reasons for hopelessness. Well, she wasn't hopeless. That was the point. She was courageous. She thought it was a hopeless situation but she was tackling it." Welty's explanation- at least her story connects me to Woman and to Welty- this is why I love her- Welty- the ever present storyteller and Woman- Hope.
"I was taking photographs of human beings because they were real life and they were there in front of me and that was the reality." Referred to as snapshots by Welty, Reynolds Price sees "mercy" in honest subjects facing the lens of observer with "patent trust."
Some of my pics from Welty's candy counter-
Sideshow,State Fair. Welty gravitated to the odd native folk art quality of the carnival posters. She was drawn to the carnival crowds- she was quick to say the posters at the carnival were records of that art and not the of the "Mule Faced Woman" -" Photographing subjects of the freak show or of that sort violates human privacy , and by intention."(Welty)
an image in the Hattie Carnegie show window/NYC/ 1940's
beautiful and tender Sunday School, Holiness Church/Jackson/1939
Baby Bluebird/Bird Pageant/Jackson 1930's Welty's photographs of the Bird Pageant are spiritual, a bit amusing- but don't we giggle in church, don't we laugh at things we don't quite understand. Such is the Bird Pageant- Even Welty doesn't have much to say about it- it was dramatic, original. She photographed the performers outside the church but would not take any pictures inside the church of the pageant. It wouldn't have been right. " I wouldn't have taken a camera into the place. I wouldn't have misused my invitation by disrupting the program." In all that Eudora Welty speaks about concerning her photography there is present her compelling sense of honoring subject and place.
ruins of Windsor- Eudora Welty's shadow in "the Ruins of Windsor" with trees growing out of the columns. At some point, Welty was asked to host Henry Miller around Mississippi when he was researching a book making a cross country trip. Amongst other things- Welty and several friends took the expatriate Miller to see Windsor.... Miller was bored. (If you've ever had guests in a small town- I admit-it is sometimes a stretch to entertain.) As to dining, "the Rotisserie was the one good restaurant in Jackson" and Welty and her distinguished guest dined- "at the drive in part, at the steak part and sometimes at the dance part with the band," leaving Miller to say- "how does a town like Jackson rate 3 good restaurants!" Whether Windsor impressed Miller is unknown- Welty only felt relief that Miller didn't mention the visit or Jackson in the book.
Welty's pictures- her snapshots-"was some irresistible notion that I might capture some essence of the place... Yes, I was smitten by the identity of place wherever I was."
Chopping Cotton in the Field/ Warren County 1935
Welty lost her camera while traveling in Europe. She left it on a station bench after a full day with friends, children, and Versailles . As a sort of punishment for the loss of a day's worth of film-" a day's happiness"- she stopped taking pictures. "I didn't deserve a camera after that. I was so crushed." The day was lost- never to be recaptured-those people would never be assembled in such a way again.
I can not imagine that if Miss Welty had wanted to continue taking pictures she would have done so- Perhaps she had recorded all that she wanted to and told stories instead.
Eudora Welty born - April 13. 1909
(quotes from an interview with Eudora Welty by Hunter Cole and Seetha Srinivasan-1989)