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John Foster

Blues, Baptisms, and Prison Farms: The Lomax Snapshots of 1934-1950


Many of us have heard of the great sound recording work by John A. Lomax, Sr., his son Alan, and his wife Ruby Terrill, as they embarked on an expedition sponsored by the Archive of American Folk Song and The Library of Congress between 1934-1950. That priceless sound archive of over 700 field recordings has given much understanding into the culture of our nation, which was enhanced by their snapshot photographs taken along the way. If you haven't heard about this archive, I warn you of the enjoyable amounts of time that can be spent listening to these early blues and folk singers and musicians. Take this one, Lost Train Blues, for example.

Housed at the Library of Congress and available online, the collection of photographs depict African American, Mexican American, and white musicians, singers and dancers, primarily in the southern United States (Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Texas, and Virginia) and the Bahamas (Nassau, Andros Island, and Cat Island). These prints were made during throughout their travels, mostly sponsored by the Library of Congress. In addition to posed portraits, the images in the collection show musicians performing in various settings: at home, in concert, and while performing prison labor outdoors. Views of children engaged in singing games, scenes of daily life, and some landscape views are also included. Folklorist Zora Neale Hurston, who assisted the Lomaxes on expeditions to Georgia and Florida, has been identified in a few photographs.


Blues, Baptisms, and Prison Farms: The Lomax Snapshots of 1934-1950
“Lightnin’” Washington, an African American prisoner, singing with his group in the woodyard at Darrington State Farm, Texas
Creator(s): Lomax, Alan, 1915-2002, photographer
Date Created/Published: 1934 Apr.
Medium: 1 photographic print.
Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-ppmsc-00287 (digital file from original) LC-USZ62-23008 (b&w film copy neg.)

Blues, Baptisms, and Prison Farms: The Lomax Snapshots of 1934-1950
Baptism near Mineola, Texas
Creator(s): Lomax, Alan, 1915-2002, photographer
Date Created/Published: 1935 Summer.
Medium: 1 photographic print.
Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-ppmsc-00289 (digital file from original)

Blues, Baptisms, and Prison Farms: The Lomax Snapshots of 1934-1950
Candy seller, San Antonio, Texas
Creator(s): Lomax, Alan, 1915-2002, photographer
Date Created/Published: [between 1934 and 1950]
Medium: 1 photographic print.
Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-ppmsc-00279 (digital file from original)

Blues, Baptisms, and Prison Farms: The Lomax Snapshots of 1934-1950
Mrs. Elizabeth Fulks in her garden at Stanton, Texas
Creator(s): Lomax, Ruby T. (Ruby Terrill), photographer
Date Created/Published: 1940 Sept.
Medium: 1 photographic print.
Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-ppmsc-00294 (digital file from original)

Blues, Baptisms, and Prison Farms: The Lomax Snapshots of 1934-1950
Lolo Mendoza and Chico Real, with guitars, at the home of Mrs. Sarah Kleberg Shelton, Kingsville, Texas
Creator(s): Lomax, Ruby T. (Ruby Terrill), photographer
Date Created/Published: 1940 Sept.
Medium: 1 photographic print.
Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-ppmsc-00302 (digital file from original)

Blues, Baptisms, and Prison Farms: The Lomax Snapshots of 1934-1950
Angelina Four at Kelty’s Lumber Co., Lufkin, Texas
Creator(s): Lomax, Ruby T. (Ruby Terrill), photographer
Date Created/Published: 1940 Oct.
Medium: 1 photographic print.
Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-ppmsc-00308 (digital file from original)

Blues, Baptisms, and Prison Farms: The Lomax Snapshots of 1934-1950
Uncle Billy McCrea (right), with John A. Lomax (center), and friends, at Billy’s home in Jasper, Texas
Creator(s): Lomax, Ruby T. (Ruby Terrill), photographer
Date Created/Published: 1940 Sept.
Medium: 1 photographic print.
Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-ppmsc-00316 (digital file from original) LC-USZ62-120994 (b&w film copy neg.)

Blues, Baptisms, and Prison Farms: The Lomax Snapshots of 1934-1950
Baptist preacher, Alma Plantation, False River, Louisiana
Creator(s): Lomax, Alan, 1915-2002, photographer
Date Created/Published: 1934 July.
Medium: 1 photographic print.
Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-ppmsc-00320 (digital file from original) LC-USZ62-36098 (b&w film copy neg.)

Blues, Baptisms, and Prison Farms: The Lomax Snapshots of 1934-1950
Baptist congregation, Alma Plantation, False River, La.
Creator(s): Lomax, Alan, 1915-2002, photographer
Date Created/Published: 1934 July.
Medium: 1 photographic print.
Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-ppmsc-00321 (digital file from original)

Blues, Baptisms, and Prison Farms: The Lomax Snapshots of 1934-1950
Bill Tatnall, half-length portrait, seated, facing left, playing guitar, Frederica, Georgia
Creator(s): Lomax, Alan, 1915-2002, photographer
Date Created/Published: 1935 June.
Medium: 1 photographic print.
Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-ppmsc-00364 (digital file from original) LC-USZ6-1894 (b&w film copy neg.)

Blues, Baptisms, and Prison Farms: The Lomax Snapshots of 1934-1950
Luneda Commeaux, Cajun singer, half-length portrait, facing left, New Iberia, Louisiana
Creator(s): Lomax, Alan, 1915-2002, photographer
Date Created/Published: [between 1934 and 1950]
Medium: 1 photographic print.
Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-ppmsc-00337 (digital file from original) LC-USZ6-1404 (b&w film copy neg.) LC-USZ62-91679 (b&w film copy neg.)

Blues, Baptisms, and Prison Farms: The Lomax Snapshots of 1934-1950
Stavin’ Chain playing guitar and singing the ballad “Batson” accompanied by a musician on violin, Lafayette, La.
Creator(s): Lomax, Alan, 1915-2002, photographer
Date Created/Published: 1934 June.
Medium: 1 photographic print.
Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-ppmsc-00343 (digital file from original)

Blues, Baptisms, and Prison Farms: The Lomax Snapshots of 1934-1950
Prison compound no. 1, Angola, Louisiana. Leadbelly (Huddie Ledbetter) in the foreground
Creator(s): Lomax, Alan, 1915-2002, photographer
http://www.loc.gov/pictures/collection/lomax/item/2007660073/
Date Created/Published: 1934 July.
Medium: 1 photographic print.
Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-ppmsc-00346 (digital file from original) LC-USZ61-1347 (b&w film copy neg.)

Blues, Baptisms, and Prison Farms: The Lomax Snapshots of 1934-1950
Two unidentified convicts, one of whom is playing the guitar and looks like Leadbelly (Huddie Ledbetter)
Date Created/Published: 1934 July.
Medium: 1 photographic print.
Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-ppmsc-00349 (digital file from original) LC-USZ62-121169 (b&w film copy neg.)

Blues, Baptisms, and Prison Farms: The Lomax Snapshots of 1934-1950
Gabriel Brown and Rochelle French, Eatonville, Florida
Creator(s): Lomax, Alan, 1915-2002, photographer
Date Created/Published: 1935 June.
Medium: 1 photographic print.
Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-ppmsc-00372 (digital file from original) LC-USZ61-1783 (b&w film copy neg.) LC-USZ62-127623 (b&w film copy neg.) LC-USZ6-2256 (b&w film copy neg.)

Blues, Baptisms, and Prison Farms: The Lomax Snapshots of 1934-1950
Fields Ward of Bog Trotters Band, with guitar, Galax, Virginia
Date Created/Published: 1937.
Medium: 1 photographic print.
Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-ppmsc-00406 (digital file from original)

Blues, Baptisms, and Prison Farms: The Lomax Snapshots of 1934-1950
Enka Square Dance Team dancing at the Mountain Music Festival, Asheville, North Carolina
Date Created/Published: [between 1938 and 1950]
Medium: 1 photographic print.
Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-ppmsc-00469 (digital file from original)

Blues, Baptisms, and Prison Farms: The Lomax Snapshots of 1934-1950
Unknown people on Nassau dock as we left for Cat Island, June 1935
Creator(s): Lomax, Alan, 1915-2002, photographer
Date Created/Published: 1935 June.
Medium: 1 photographic print.
Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-ppmsc-00476 (digital file from original)

Blues, Baptisms, and Prison Farms: The Lomax Snapshots of 1934-1950
Folk musical instruments including homemade horns, homemade drum, and washboard
Date Created/Published: [between 1934 and 1950
Medium: 1 photographic print.
Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-ppmsc-00637 (digital file from original) LC-USZ62-104527 (b&w film copy neg.)

Blues, Baptisms, and Prison Farms: The Lomax Snapshots of 1934-1950
Folk musical instruments including homemade horns
Date Created/Published: [between 1934 and 1950

Medium: 1 photographic print.
Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-ppmsc-00641 (digital file from original)

Posted in: Accidental Mysteries, Culture, Music , Photography, Popular Culture

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