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The Turncoat…

As we were heading home from a gloriously sunny Labor Day weekend, I saw this tree.

TurncoatLook, I like trees.  A lot.  Anyone who’s been to my house knows I have an almost embarrassing penchant for paintings of trees.  After a long Winter, the reappearance of green, landscaping-softening leaves lifts my spirits like nothing else.

Which might be why this guy put me in mind of chainsaws and wood chippers.  I mean, look at it (that’s what it wants you to do).  All vainglorious in it’s “I’m first!” wrapping of Fall color, heedless that it’s rushing the process toward it’s own stick-limbed Winter nakedness.

Even in nature, patience and the longview is a virtue.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79
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roundhouseworkerLook closely at this photograph.  Check out the color, the rich lighting and resolution, those freaking awesome goggles.  How old do you think it is?

Would you guess fifty-seven years?  This portrait of a railroad worker taken in the roundhouse of the old Proviso Yard in Chicago exists as part of an online collection in the Library of Congress.  Originally commissioned by the Farm Security Administration, this rare color photograph from 1942 looks like a movie still from some recent period film–probably because we lack any cultural references to relate to a full color snapshot from that era.  As far as I can tell, WWII was fought in grisly black and white, as opposed to the more visceral jungle green and blood red of the Vietnam War newsreels.  That’s just how we’ve always seen it…

What’s even more remarkable is that this entire archive was the vision of a government official.  Roy Emerson Stryker fought in the Great War and later earned a degree in Economics from Columbia.  When he lectured, he would illustrate his talks with his own photography.  Eventually, his Columbia colleague Rex Tugwell left to head the Resettlement Administration, which evolved into the Farm Security Administration.  Roy followed him there, eventually setting up one of the greatest photographic documentary projects in history.  To effectively communicate the hardships the Depression wreaked upon the American heartland and some of the promise of the New Deal, he sent dozens of photographers out on very specific assignments to bring back images which they would feed the press.  By the end of his project, the American public owned 77,000 published prints and 644 color images.

This economist, this manager, this amateur photographer proved to be one of our nation’s finest curators of artistic documentation.  He could just as easily have chosen to be another anonymous bureaucrat, punching the clock and biding his time until his 6pm highball or his twenty-five year gold watch, but not Roy.  His mind didn’t settle for the mundane but imagined something far more vivid.  And because he bothered to think of it, we have a remarkable trove of images that pack an eye-opening empathy.

Do yourself a favor and spend an hour or two with his work by clicking here.  After all, you own these images too.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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Last Thursday, around Noon, I got an e-mail from Bob Garfield, the advertising critic for Advertising Age.  Rather cryptically, he wrote:

 i know payback is a bitch, but here’s your chance to reverse roles:  thechaosscenario.net

You Can Probably Get It On Kindle Too

You Can Probably Get It On Kindle Too

I’ve known Bob for a long time.  Over the years, his opinions have made me smile, laugh, and pull my hair out, though rarely at the same time.  We’ve created long e-mail strings, tossing barbs and one-liners back and forth debating various points of contention.  In print, online and in person as he emcees all manner of advertising events, he’s a man of great humor, fundamental decency, and unflinching honesty in calling them as he sees them.  Which is why I immediately ordered his new book “The Chaos Scenario.”

And like he does so often, he nails it here.  His theme is familia: the game-changing reordering of media and marketing brought on by digital technology.  With tons of examples–including his well-publicized ‘Comcast Must Die’ campaign–Bob talks about what he calls “The Death of Everything” (the man does have a flair for the extreme).  He paints a sobering portrait of our communication and sales landscape as it undergoes significant upheaval and offers some guidance for emerging areas of opportunity.

Bob didn’t sell me with an ad campaign, but rather his one-to-one e-mail, and by extension, a form of permission marketing: both of which fit perfectly with his thesis.  Happily, this book is really, really good and I recommend it to anyone in this business.  If you’re curious, you can download the first three chapters for free here.

And as Bob was quick to remind me in a follow-up:

thanks for buying it. remember, christmas is just around the corner.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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As The Ancient Greeks Said, "Know Thyself"  I-94, IL

As The Ancient Greeks Said, “Know Thyself” I-94, IL

 

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

 

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The BBQ Seems Like a Value Judgment of Ardythe, Oshkosh, WI

The BBQ Seems Like a Value Judgment of Ardythe. Oshkosh, WI

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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Always Makes the Eight Year Old In Me Giggle, Green Lake, WI

Always Makes the Eight Year Old In Me Giggle, Green Lake, WI

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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Hard To Believe It's Almost Back To School Time.  Markesan, WI

Hard To Believe It's Almost Back To School Time. Markesan, WI

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

 

 

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