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The Photograph—Updated, with an Additional Photo

This past Christmas, thanks to a photograph I received from out of the blue, I was able to turn to my wife and sons and say, “There’s my childhood.” And to tell myself: even though it was nearly a half-century ago, it was real. Update 1/20/11: Per the request of the readers, another photo referenced in the article has been added at end of the piece.

by
Michael S. Malone

Bio

January 16, 2011 - 10:39 am

I did notice, in the summer of 1961, that Scott’s dad was gone for a long time — but it would be another decade before I realized that he had gone to Moscow to put on the first American photography exhibition in the Soviet Union — a historic event in the slow thawing of the Cold War in which my own father was a soldier.

The blizzard of 1962, combined with my father’s first heart attack, proved to be a turning point. My father retired from the Air Force and took a job with NASA in California. Perhaps it was because we sensed that everything was coming to end, but that spring still remains in my mind — and I know in Scott’s too — as the most idyllic moment of our childhood. And it was on one of those days that spring, on a trip to a farm in Chantilly, VA, that Frank Christopher took the photograph. Here it is; click to enlarge:

At first glance, “On the Farm,” as it was entitled in exhibitions, appears to be a casual photo. But it is nothing of the sort. The composition is far too complex; so I have no doubt that Frank, in his genius, placed us on that fence — and then just waited for us to get lost in conversation. That’s my red shirt — I wear it in my 4th grade school portrait — but as Scott has noted, he was told to wear this specific sweatshirt in order to balance the color.

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