I spent a lot of today reading about John Vachon - one of the less well known FSA photographers, and very undeservedly so - Miles Orvell has hypothesized very convincingly that this is because he never had a Big Hit (like Lange's Migrant Mother). What I really enjoyed were his increasingly depressed letters to his (long-suffering) wife from the road - staying in crummy boarding houses in freezing cold Montana, his car continually breaking down, and worrying that his current batch of flash bulbs would run out. They gave a much, much better sense of what it could be like working for the FSA, trying to keep Stryker happy, trying to adhere to his shooting script, than all those letters to Stryker, which even if they might try and be joky - even flirtatious (cf Marion Post Wolcott) were fundamentally letters to an employer, and a hard taskmaster at that.
So how my heart went out today - went out twice today - to Vachon complaining that he'd sent a whole lot of photos off to Stryker that he thought were good images. And so they appeared - from the contact sheets. Stryker had them blown up to 8x10, printed out on on good paper, and sent them back - to show him that they were shaky and blurred. Similarly, this image, looking down at the bluegrass band at today's NHC reception, looked absolutely fine - indeed, quite a good composition of curves - when looked at in the very small window at the back of the camera. But it's not, obviously ... and nothing that I can tweak in Photoshop can make it look very much better, alas. Vachon learned he should be using a tripod; I could, given the light, have deployed the balcony edge, at the very least.