Monday, September 16, 2013

Garry Winogrand's "Albuquerque 1957"

Albuquerque 1957
I don't buy many postcards on-line, although a couple of years ago I bought an early postcard of the Western Skies Hotel on an eBay-like site called Bidstart.  Bidstart has since sent me periodic e-mails with "suggestions" for other postcards I might like, and one of these e-mails contained a captivating image that conjured up all sorts of childhood memories for me.  I had never seen the photograph before, so I had no idea that either the image or Garry Winogrand, the photographer, was famous; rather, I mistakenly assumed that it was someone's family photo that somehow had ended up on a postcard.  Winogrand, I've since found out, was famed for his street photography, and Albuquerque 1957 is one of the photographs for which he is most remembered.  (His most-famous photo is probably one of several iconic images of Marilyn Monroe with her dress being swept up, while standing on a grate over an air duct, as part of the publicity surrounding the release of the film The Seven Year Itch.)

Anyway, Albuquerque 1957 (see attached) shows a toddler, in cloth diapers, at the top of the driveway to a home that obviously was a Dale Bellamah home of a style that is common in Princess Jeanne Park, the subdivision in which I grew up in northeast Albuquerque.  It also shows the "U" -- the small peak in the Sandia foothills (now commonly called "U Mound") that I've already written about extensively.  My searching on Google revealed that a fellow named Joe Van Cleave investigated the location of the house and ultimately identified it, convincingly, as 1208 Muriel Street, NE, which indeed is in Princess Jeanne Park and is located between Lomas Blvd. and Constitution Ave. (more specifically, one block west of Juan Tabo Blvd. and just north of Mountain Rd.).  When Winogrand took the photo, I was still a gleam in my daddy's eye, but my family had already lived in its home on Gretta Street (some distance southwest of 1208 Muriel) for two years.  The area has been completely developed now -- there are houses all the way to within 50 yards or so of the "U," which thankfully is located in a city "open space" area -- but the image captures perfectly a place, and a moment in time, when Albuquerque was rapidly expanding to the east.

The kids of the families who lived on Muriel Street between Lomas and Constitution attended the same elementary school I did, although I lived a lot closer to it.  I remember that a kid my age named Kenny D_____ lived with his family on Muriel near its intersection with Mountain Rd.  He and I weren't friends, as he had a fearsome reputation in school as a fighter/bully, but he may have been in one or two of my classes.  For all I know, his family could have lived in the house at 1208 Muriel in that timeframe, as the neighborhood tended to be fairly transient even in the early days.

[Update 10/2/13: Here are a couple of Google Earth shots which give some perspective on the Winogrand image.  The left one is a broader view of the area and contains a number of area landmarks, including my parents' home.  The one on the right is a closer view of the 1208 Muriel home and the "U," showing just how much development has occurred since 1957.)

[Update 10/30/13:Here is the current Google "Street View" of 1208 Muriel NE -- 56 years after Winogrand's photo of the toddler.]