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The magazine of the photo-essay
April 2017 issue
Travelog USA 1971
by Claude le Gall
“A free, really high quality photo-essay magazine.  Fabulous!” Stephen Fry. British actor, writer and film & documentary maker
It is exactly forty-six years since I took these photos. I realize now I should have taken a lot more but I did not have enough confidence and experience at the time to produce something more elaborate. Also, I was still a student and the number of rolls I could shoot was inevitably limited. Looking back on it, I now see all the pictures I have missed: Sioux passengers and local ranch hands in ten-gallon hats and cowboy boots on the Greyhound bus on the plains between Denver and the Mississippi. Also the watermelon merchants’ stalls in the scorching sun at crossroads here and there and the bus station in Pittsburgh where all kinds of people, some rather weird, were waiting or loitering. My young wife and I had a marvelous stay with a family in Denver, Colorado. They did everything they could to show us around. That’s how we managed to see part of the Midwest where they came from. I still remember vividly our stay in Mankato and Oberlin, Kansas where a cattle auction was in full swing when we got there. Many people had Swedish origins. Their ancestors had settled in the area at the end of the nineteenth century or in the early years of the twentieth. I took pictures of Marvin, the cattle inspector, balanced on a wooden ledge on top of the white fence of the compound where the cattle had been pent up. I eventually filed those film strips and transparencies which lay in their polyester slides for decades. Thirty-five years later, I decided to find out what had become of the man I had photographed then and sent prints to the auction barn, whose address I had found on the internet. To my surprise I received a warm letter from Marvin who was just retiring and we exchanged a few letters until, sadly, he passed away a few years ago. Crossing the plains was a unique experience. I still see the buffalo grass bending in the breeze, the long asphalt road stretching endlessly and the isolated gas station in a place called “Last Chance” at the far end of Kansas near the Colorado border. I see the lines of telegraph poles extending at the foot of the Rockies, the rolling tumbleweed everywhere on the side of the road, the astounding remains of the Anasazi culture at Mesa Verde, the abandoned mines around Ouray. Travelling south, we spent a day in Fort Smith, Arkansas. The weather was dull. The town looked bleak in the glow of a late afternoon shower and Judge Parker’s gallows added an even more dismal touch to the atmosphere. I’ve never been west again; this was the one and only time. I’d certainly love to go back one day, see those places and people again and maybe do some more work.
Mankato, Kansas, 1971 © C. Le Gall.
Mankato, Kansas, 1971 © C. Le Gall.
Mankato, Kansas, 1971 © C. Le Gall.
Oberlin, Kansas, 1971 © C. Le Gall
Oberlin, Kansas, 1971 © C. Le Gall.
Oberlin, Kansas, 1971 © C. Le Gall.
Oberlin, Kansas, 1971 © C. Le Gall.
Oberlin, Kansas, 1971 © C. Le Gall.
Cheyenne, Wyoming, 1971 © C. Le Gall.
Oberlin, Kansas, 1971 © C. Le Gall.
Oberlin, Kansas, 1971 © C. Le Gall
Oberlin, Kansas, 1971 © C. Le Gall.
Denver, Colorado, 1971 © C. Le Gall
Fort Smith, Arkansas, 1971 © C. Le Gall
Fort Smith, Arkansas, 1971 © C. Le Gall.
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