Charles Cushman (1896-1972) photographed a disappearing world in living color. Cushman's midcentury America--a place normally seen only through a scrim of gray--reveals itself as a place as vivid and real as the view through our window.
The Day in Its Color introduces readers to Cushman's extraordinary work, a recently unearthed archive of photographs that is the largest known body of early color photographs by a single photographer, 14,500 in all, most shot on vivid, color-saturated Kodachrome stock. From 1938-1969, Cushman--a sometime businessman and amateur photographer with an uncanny eye for everyday detail--travelled constantly, shooting everything he encountered as he ventured from New York to New Orleans, Chicago to San Francisco, and everywhere in between. His photos include portraits, ethnographic studies, agricultural and industrial landscapes, movie sets and media events, children playing, laborers working, and thousands of street scenes, all precisely documented in time and place. The result is a chronicle of an era almost never seen, or even envisioned, in color.
This well-preserved collection is all the more remarkable for having gone undiscovered for decades. What makes the photos most valuable, however, is the wide range of subjects, landscapes, and moods it captures--snapshots of a lost America as yet untouched by a homogenizing overlay of interstate highways, urban renewal, chain stores, and suburban development--a world of hand-painted signs, state fairs, ramshackle shops, small town living and bustling urban scenes. The book also reveals the fascinating and startling life story of the man who stood, unseen, on the other side of the lens, surely one of America's most impressive amateur photographers and outsider artists.
With over 150 gorgeous color prints, The Day in Its Color gives us one of the most evocative visual histories of mid-20th century America that we have.
"This lavishly illustrated book opens a window on this transitional moment in American cultural history: a period of migration from rural, agrarian towns to bustling urban centers, and the rise of mass industry and commerce." --Journal of American History
"Imagine Berenice Abbott or Walker Evans in technicolor and you have an idea of the beautiful work in this book." --The New York Post
"[Cushman's] images--landscapes, street scenes, the occasional bathing beauty--gorgeously resurrect a lost time." --Chicago Magazine
"Sandweiss takes readers along on a long, meticulously researched, but personable journey through the life, work, and times of this photographer. The images are lovely and offer glimpses into the daily life of small farms, rural towns, and bustling city streets between 1938 and 1969...Readers interested in photography or American social history will enjoy this lovely book." --Library Journal
"[The Day in its Color] supplies a fascinating footnote to the history of early color photography...Cushman was at his best in wordlessly illustrating the ambitions and failures of midcentury life through reality checks on his surroundings. If nostalgia rips through most of the book, it is Cushman's obsession with photography that reigns supreme."
--Linda Yablonsky, Artnet
"Disdained at first by both 'serious amateurs' and professional photographers, the color film called Kodachrome proved a tremendous boon for more casual snap-shooters, people on holiday with family and loved ones. The Day in Its Color focuses on a single remarkable collection of thousands of color slides by a determined Chicago businessman. By tracing the life of one ardent amateur in these strained wartime and postwar years, 1938 to 1969, the book
offers a uniquely original perspective, in full and surprisingly compelling Kodak color, into an age at once complacent about itself and terribly confused." --Alan Trachtenberg, Professor Emeritus of English and
American Studies, Yale University
"Because Charles Cushman was neither an art photographer nor photo-journalist and because so many of the color slides he took in the decades before and after WWII recorded ordinary landscapes and urban views, his work was for many years all but forgotten. Rediscovered, cataloged and now accessible online, it provides a kind of time capsule, an extraordinarily vivid and colorful glimpse of an America that continues to disappear before our very eyes. In this
book Eric Sandweiss provides a complete and compelling introduction to Cushman's unlikely career, the times that he lived through, and the spectacular legacy that he left." --Robert Bruegmann, Professor
Emeritus of Art History, Architecture, and Urban Planning, University of Illinois at Chicago
Introduction: "A Fair Collection of Interesting Pictures": Rediscovering Charles Cushman's Day in Its Color
1: Dawn: Indiana Beginnings, 1896-1918
2: Morning: An Eye for Business, 1919-1940
3. Afternoon: Death at Midlife, 1941-1951
4. Twilight: California, 1952-1972