Yet unlike Weegee he was no news photographer. Rather than explaining situations, his photographs tended to muddy them. Images of a car upside down in a gulch or firefighter buying produce, e.g., leave the viewer wondering "What the F_ is going on here?"
If he was no Weegee, neither was he Shore. The photographs of Uncommon Places are so drily descriptive that they are better referenced by Google Street View than by newspaper accounts. In contrast, Sternfeld was drawn to specific events.
With the digitizing and archiving of old newspapers these events can now be revisited and seen from the perspective of their times. Seen, in other words, as Sternfeld saw them. Perhaps finally after all these years we can gain a sense of "What the F_ is going on here?"
Back in June I made an initial probe in this direction, investigating the back story of Sternfeld's whale shot. A few months later Michael David Murphy wrote a similar profile on insig.ht, this time about Sternfeld's elephant-in-the-road photo. That's two down, leaving several dozen to go.
This post begins a new series investigating some of Sternfeld's shots through the lens of old news articles, beginning with After a Tornado, Grande Isle, Nebraska, June 1980 (image 23 in the 2003 version of AP). Here is the image (sorry for the poor scan):
And here is the situation as described by The Toledo Blade in an article published June 4, 1980:
I'll have more Sternfeld photos to follow in the upcoming weeks...