By Eric Sandweiss
Oxford University Press, $39.95 240 pages
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 35mm 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 pictures 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.
Charles Cushman was more than an obsessive collector, and his slides warrant more than the bemused indulgence that exotic collections customarily awaken in us. From 1938 to 1969, driving country roads and walking city streets, this Indiana native captured a dying America in living color.