This book covers a lot of things. It's a biography of the man who took the pictures, a story about his various family relationships, and some good information about photography and film. Most of all, the pictures tell a story of an America that was, and now lives only in books, films, and some memories. Well worth reading.
This book was a total impulse buy and I am very glad I got it. The color prints are beautifully reproduced and there is just enough copy to understand the photographer, but not enough to interfere with the gorgeous pictures. Stabs of memory are on every other page -- what a beautiful memoir.
When I found out about this book on NPR I knew it would make the perfect Christmas gift for my grandfather. I did not ever have this book in my possession, but I did get to view a slide show of the photos on NPR's website. The man who took these photos was a reporter in Chicago and chronicled the city and his travels across the US. There is a lovely story about his troubled wife, whom he retired for and took care of after a suicide attempt. They spent the remainder of their days touring the country and she is the subject of many photos with sweeping and breathtaking backdrops, or famous landmarks. He also captured so much of the mundane, that a historical record of daily life has been preserved in these photos. You will note that the photos are made with color-saturated Kodachrome stock, and are extremely unusual. If you are interested in any of these subjects, or have a loved one from this era, I highly recommended this purchase.
Picking up this book, THE DAY IN ITS COLOR, is akin to opening that chest in the attic and discovering a family album of photographs that bring back all the history of your life in a moment of passion for everything you have loved. Charles Cushman's gift to our emotional history is placed before the public in this touching book of images from across the United States taken from 1938 to 1969 by a man not formally trained as a photographer but a man who was obsessed with travel, and while following his obsession, happened to document on color Kodachrome film those little aspects of midcentury America that often went unnoticed and that have since disappeared in many cases.
The odd aspect of this collection if the fact that these 150 images are only the tip of the photographic realm Cushman produced: his recently discovered legacy contains almost 14,500 color photographs that were unknown until after his death (Cushman was born in 1896 and died in 1972). These images - including festivals, monuments such as the Grand Canyon, movies sets, cityscapes, landscapes, skylines, portraits of various ethnic groups, of children and of people he found interesting from San Francisco to New York and every place in between. His eye paused for the simple aspects of living, with glimpses into the daily life of small farms, rural towns, and bustling city streets, Brylcreem signs that marked the bumpy roads across the country, county fairs, people passing time with neighbors, bustling city streets - and all photographs were documented with time and place.
This book is definitely part of the definition of `outsider art' and now that the imagery has been captured in this fine volume Cushman is guaranteed a place in the annals of color photography and as a particularly sensitive historian. Eric Sandweiss provides the written word that so gracefully enhances this fine book. Grady Harp, October 12
Chronicled in this classic collection of kodakchrome photos is a pictorial history of America in the years between 1938-1969. The photographs are spellbinding as they relate the changing emotions of the landscape and the inhabitants during this transitory period that has been forgotten in our current frenetic technological state. Using a 35 mm camera with the then new kodachrome color film, Charles Cushman a traveling businessman, acted as an itinerant photographer, capturing the essence of the country. Moving across the continent, west to east and north to south, his images recorded the people, the neighborhoods, agricultural sites, the glory of the natural scenery, industrial production, urban development and suburban life. For the mature, these images will reawaken memories, for the youthful the picture recall life in the past century. This series of sensitive photographs have a patina of thoughtful timelessness that is lacking in the precise digital reproductions currently in vogue. Along with artists like Edward Hopper, this amateur photographer and his candid collection of color slides filtered through his eyes serve as a hallmark of social realism.
Two weeks ago I stopped by my favorite bookstore in Santa Fe, Collected Works, and asked if they had anything "really exceptional" -- that question has never failed to yield a treasure, or two, or even more.
This time was no exception. Once Cushman's collection of colored photos was in my hands I just couldn't put it down. I can only hope the editors will continue this series; there are apparently several thousand other examples to choose from.
Wonderous history of America, nicely reproduced, well bound, carefully edited with a bit of explanation, but not too much.