I had never heard of Robert Frank, although I was familiar with his Trolley – New Orleans image (on the cover of the 50th anniversary Steidl edition). He died in 2019. I really enjoyed this reading of a 2015 article about him – it was featured on The Daily (a podcast from The New York Times).
Listening to the hour-long podcast inspired me to borrow The Americans from the Denver Public Library. The Introduction by Jack Kerouac is under six pages, and the rest of the book features photographs taken by Robert Frank as he traveled across America in 1955 and 1956.
The most memorable parts of the podcast/article:
Bruce Springsteen talking about The Americans
Frank’s experience in an Arkansas jail and his “missed photograph”
The photographer’s realization that he liked black people much more than white people
There is an unwillingness to accept that some artists contribute significantly to the evolution of more than one art form (in Frank’s case, Indie films and photography)
Photos from The Americans that I found myself thinking about, hours or days after putting the book down:
the rodeo images: Rodeo – Detroit and Rodeo – New York City (I don’t think of rodeos in these locations)
Hotel lobby – Miami Beach (it’s as ostentatious as it sounds)
Bank – Houston, Texas (it left me feeling empty)
For many photographers, single images are memorable. I guess that is the case with Frank’s Trolley – New Orleans photo, too. However, as I perused this book on several occasions, it occurred to me how so many of these images wouldn’t be exceptional by themselves – it was his commitment to driving throughout America in a certain time period and then presenting us with a select number of images that makes his photography impactful.
I’ve always thought of famous photographers as individuals who repeatedly produce single images that become popular. Frank is the first photographer I have encountered who made me realize that sometimes the magic of photography as an art form is in the collections (and the presentation as a collection), not the individual images.
Some may wonder if a book that was first published over half a century ago is still relevant. I was surprised how much.
The questions and stories associated with a photograph may lead you someplace unexpected. A pink and black plastic bag used for trick-or-treating in the early 1970s prompted me and my sisters to reminisce about Livingston’s, a women’s department store in Youngstown, Ohio, in the mid-twentieth century. And that led me to our mother and her hats.
Launch point: 1970s Halloween photos
I went trick-or-treating ca 1973 dressed as a clown. I knew these two photos were from the same Halloween because of the red and white checkered shirt visible in both pictures. I was obviously happy with my candy haul; check out the old Nestle Crunch wrapper near the bottom of the candy photo. I was never a fan of Sugar Daddy’s, but one can’t go wrong with Hershey’s or M&M’s; I think I see Snickers and Milky Way in the mix as well. After assessing the 1970s candy collection, the pink and black bag tossed off to the side caught my attention.
Pink and black mystery bag
My mother always saved paper and plastic bags for re-use. There was a small wooden box at the top of our basement stairs, attached to the wall by my father. That’s where we stored the bags for a future need. I’m not sure why I didn’t carry a plastic pumpkin for trick-or-treating, or a pillowcase (which I remember lots of neighborhood kids using). I was young, so maybe this small bag was deemed sufficient for what I expect was my first trick-or-treat outing.
The bag’s colors were soooo 1970s: pink and black. The first letter looked like an “H,” and I remembered hearing about Higbee’s department store. I texted my sisters, 15 and 18 years older, to see what they might recall.
Youngstown department stores
Wikipedia was helpful in terms of Higbee’s and Strouss department stores, but not for Livingston’s. I came across articles about a Livingston’s in Illinois, but it wasn’t the same store. Then I came across this Classic Youngstown: Livingston’s Comforter, and that confirmed the logo (not the colors, but pink and black comforters probably wouldn’t sell). There are over 43 products with the Livingston’s logo at Redbubble.
There was also a 1950s picture of Federal Street in Youngstown, mentioning Livingston’s. At some point, Livingston’s moved to the Boardman Plaza; my sister Sue shared this memory of a sophisticated aunt who worked at Livingston’s:
My research also turned up three vintage round hat boxes from Livingston’s. Our mother loved hats, so I have to wonder if she purchased any of hers at Livingston’s over the years. Her daughters and grandchildren were often embarrassed when she wore hats to church, but now the individuality she expressed is a fond memory. It occurs to me that we only have a few pictures of her wearing hats; I wish we had some from the late twentieth century.
My niece remembers that when she and her brother would enter the sanctuary of Boardman United Methodist Church, Aimee would always tell Justin to look for a hat; it was the easiest way to locate Grandma. Our mother always sat in the same pew, but two young grandchildren would not have known that.
Viewing by appointment only
Richard S. Scarsella’s book: Memories and Melancholy: Reflections on the Mahoning Valley and Youngstown, Ohio, yields the most information I could find about Livingston’s (see the “Affairs of the Heart” chapter):
“Youngstown’s ‘ladies department store’ was named Livingston’s. This New York inspired downtown firm catered to an upscale clientele. Its bridal boutique was unrivaled in the valley. Within it [sic] velvet draped walls one could find exquisite garments tailored from French chiffon, Italian satin, Flemish lace, and Asian rainbow sequins. Fifth Avenue creations by Milady, Bianchi, Dior, Givenchy, and Chanel all were stocked for viewing by appointment only. These exclusive dresses were all featured in national publications and supplies were limited. Until it closed, Livingston’s was considered a trendsetter.”
I gotta say, I had no idea that the Mahoning Valley had ever had a store that stocked anything for “viewing by appointment only” – definitely before my time.
“In late spring of 1946, he returned home and attended Washington University in St. Louis where he studied retail management. He then joined the family business at the store in downtown Youngstown. After the store was sold, he owned and operated a children’s store in Warren and Juniorsville in the Boardman Plaza. Later he took back the family name with the opening of Livingston’s in the Eastwood Mall, where he worked for 20 years before retiring.”
When digitizing my family’s memorabilia, I have elected to use the TIFF file format for all photographs. I am using the multi-TIFF format for documents like brochures, wedding certificates, and baby books. Sometimes the scanner freezes before I am finished scanning an item, which means I have to save my multi-TIFF file before it is complete. Rather than scan everything again, I have discovered I can finish the scanning, save a second multi-TIFF file, and then use the Preview app on my iMac to combine the two multi-TIFF files.
Both of my scanners, an Epson V600 and a Canon MX922, supposedly enable me to scan documents as multi-TIFF files. But, I run into various problems, including error messages before I have finished scanning the entire document and scanning as multi-TIFF but the output files end up being separate TIFF files (instead of a single multi-TIFF file). I know multi-TIFF files are not common (I have had multiple folks tell me they have never heard of such files), but they are lossless. As I archive family memorabilia, I want my archive files to be lossless, knowing I can always create a copy in other file formats for various purposes. So, I am attempting to proceed with multi-TIFF files for select memorabilia. I didn’t find much help regarding manipulation of multi-TIFF files. I’m documenting my experience in case it helps others.
Multi-TIFF problems with the Epson V600 and Epson Scan 2
I made the following selections in Epson Scan 2:
I hit Preview, set my marquee (the dotted lines around the baby book cover), and then hit Scan. After the scan pass, the Add Page window appears:
Add seemed to be the obvious choice here, since I had only scanned one page and I had 18 more to go. But wait! Do not select Add before placing page 2 of the document – when one selects Add from this window, the scanner proceeds to scan. Unfortunately, this means you cannot set the marquee for any subsequent images. That’s a problem, because I don’t place my images in the upper right corner (where the scanner has an arrow directing placement). If you place an item into this corner, some of the item is cut off during the scan. So, I always place my items on the scanner bed, about 1/2” distant from any scanner edges. But that means I always need to adjust the marquee a bit, because I never place subsequent items in exactly the same position as the first item.
I tried selecting Edit instead:
This was marginally better. Remember after your first scan, you won’t have a preview option for any subsequent pages in your document. But, you can view each page from this window, and if you don’t like the results (crooked, partially cut off), you can delete a particular page, reset the document as best as possible (remember, no preview available), and continue in this manner until you get acceptable results for each and every page. If that sounds tedious, it is! And, the results still weren’t as good as I desired for archival purposes (I wanted to be able to adjust a marquee before each and every scan).
I decided this was a good time to switch scanners.
Multi-TIFF problems with the Canon MX922 and Image Capture
I made the following selections in Image Capture:
Placing the document and then selecting the Overview button allowed me to draw the marquee appropriately. The scanning took longer with this device and software, but I plugged along. At least, until I received an error message. The Scan button disappeared, so the only option was to close the application and save whatever pages I had scanned into a single file. This has happened to me multiple times when scanning with this device and Image Capture – before I finished with a long (10 or more pages) document, the scanner and/or Image Capture stopped working.
I elected to save the multi-TIFF file (with the first 11 pages of the baby book) and do some research.
Combining two multi-TIFF files using Preview on a Mac
I had 11 pages scanned, with 8 more to go. I started scanning again, with page 12, and finished. At this point I had two multi-TIFF files that I wanted to combine into a single multi-TIFF file. I thought that I found some assistance online, but none of the links I reviewed helped me to resolve my issue. Here’s what I figured out:
Select both multi-TIFF files in Finder.
Right click and open in Preview (mine opened in two different windows).
Select one of the files as the “base” file, and drag pages from the second file into the base file.
Save the base file once all pages have been added from the second file (the pages will still be present in the second file, they are being duplicated in the base file).
Once you have all pages in the base file, Preview’s Contact Sheet view makes it easy to arrange the pages as you wish:
This workflow only worked for me if the files were both multi-TIFF files. I tried this workflow with a series of TIFF files (each with one image). If selected in Finder at one time, when opened in Preview, they appeared as shown below:
I was unable to save a single multi-TIFF file from this window.
When I opened two TIFF files (each with a single image) in separate windows, I was unable to combine them (dragging didn’t work) to build a multi-TIFF file.
I don’t have a solution for building a multi-TIFF file from a series of single TIFF files, but I did figure out how to combine two multi-TIFF files; I assume this process would work for more than two multi-TIFF files.
What if you want to undo your multi-TIFF file? That’s easy, and there are plenty of articles on how to do so. To create multiple TIFF files from a multi-TIFF file, just drag each page from the multi-TIFF to the Desktop using Preview.
For archival purposes, I am saving the multi-TIFF files to my hard drive (which has multiple backups). For sharing with family, I separate the multi-TIFF files into single TIFF files and upload them to Lightroom. I am not aware of any photo managing software that handles multi-TIFF files. Once the individual images are loaded into Lightroom, I elect to stack them.