My Life in Mobile Homes by John T. Edge
Where I grew up, singlewide trailers were as common as clapboard shotguns. On the far end of my Georgia town, near where the seg academy floundered, the mothers and fathers of my grade school friends worked at the mobile home factory, bending aluminum and punching rivets, constructing metal shoeboxes with roller skates on their bottoms. No matter. In my youth, trailers were jokes waiting for punch lines. We said terrible things. We said stupid things. We said, “Tornadoes are proof that God hates trailer parks.”
With time has come perspective. And humility. And a respect for trailers as shelter and conveyance. A few years back, I wrote a book on food trucks. Once I got beyond the hype and chickpea frites, I recognized that food trucks are trailers, too. Operated by new immigrants. And downshifting chefs. And aspirational hipsters.
When I first glimpsed the Massengill family photos of Arkansas folk, shot in a Depression era trailer studio and now being reinterpreted by Maxine Payne, I thought of old prejudices and of new realizations. And I thought of the everyday beauty that earned flashbulb pops then and deserves the klieg lights of fame now.
Lance and Evelyn Massengill
In 2008, Maxine Payne, an Arkansas-based artist, self-published a book of photographs titled Making Pictures: Three For A Dime. She catalogued the work of the Massengill family who worked from 1937 to 1941 as itinerant photographers in rural Arkansas documenting farmers, young couples, babies, and anyone else who had a few minutes and an extra dime to spend. The Massengills’ photos provided candid snapshots of the rural South just before the Second World War. Through her efforts, Maxine Payne has given new life to these old photographs by coordinating exhibitions and projects, including a forthcoming book by the Atlanta-based publisher Dust-to-Digital and a collaboration with Alabama Chanin on our new collection. We asked Maxine to describe her connection to the Massengill family and her involvement with Three For A Dime:
It’s hard to believe that this month is almost over. There is so much to be thankful for – and so much to look forward to.
Wishing you and yours a happy holiday season.
P.S. Follow the Alabama Chanin Factory Café on Instagram for daily deliciousness.
Windows, New York, New York
Seeing is everything. But it takes practice.
Modern Antiquity, Atlanta, Georgia
La Plage, Trouville, France
For the past couple of years I have been traveling almost constantly for various projects in the United States and abroad. As a result, I am often away from the studio and distracted from the kind of intense focus required and afforded therein. These circumstances have led me to rethink my artistic practice and even the way I interact with the world. The newfound freedom of a portable studio has forced me to develop exercises to keep my eye and mind focused and has led to several new bodies of work, including the creation of a daily photo project titled Pictures Take You Places.