Healthy color


In the left half of the image, the receding diagonal ends at a wall of white washing. That left half is where the striding man is tall and upright and wearing white-collar made still more white by contrast with his black wristwatch.

In the right half, the Adams zones have been remapped. There the receding diagonal goes back and back to the end of the image plane and darkens as it goes, and the man with one shoulder higher than the other walks his own darkness into the dark. Except for his tin lunchpail, nothing on his side is not black. Into the middle of a descriptive geography of this black, the United States Farm Security Administration has written a diagnosis: “Coal miner going home with friend after work. Many miners are lame. Omar, West Virginia.”

In color the values are distributed more equally. There, in light, bouquets burst into visibility before an unbroken plane of human raw material moving forward like bright lava from the dark earth. That’s the story that the color tells.

You do want to believe the story, don’t you?

Then take the color cure. Let the steam cars carry you to their colorful mountains of decently covered coal. Then put on the white bustle, drink the white remedy, and be healed of your lameness.


Marion Post Walcott, 1938. “Coal miner going home with friend after work. Many miners are lame. Omar, West Virginia.” Library of Congress, Farm Security Administration / Office of War Information Black-and-White Negatives, Photoshopped.

Wills Robinson, “Risking Their Lives in Stalin’s Rusting Cable Cars,”

“Dr. Kilmer’s Female Remedy,” Boston Public Library, Photoshopped.


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