The Charles W Cushman Collection

Collecting salvage on the Lower East Side, October 4, 1941

Charles Weever Cushman was an amateur photographer who took the time to document the U.S. and other countries through photographs spanning over three decades from 1938 to 1969.

A portable soft drink stand at Bowling Green on October 1, 1942

Mr. Cushman took pictures of everything and I mean, literally, everything that was around him. People, places, animals, buildings and fields, nothing escaped his attention. Everywhere he traveled he shot roll after roll of Kodachrome color slides and kept good records about the location of each picture. Not just taking pictures, but documenting the world around him.

He bequeathed approximately 14,500 Kodachrome slides to the University of Indiana, which then made them available as a web archive.

Warning: If you like looking at old photos, don’t follow this link until you have a lot of time on your hands!

miami 1939
Miami Beach in 1939 echoed shades of old Havana - courtesy Indiana University

The Cushman Collection makes a point that all photographers should emulate: Take pictures of everything around you. Not just “artistic” photographs, everything. The trees out in front of your house, the street you live on, your city, the people in your life beyond your family. The local store owner, the pizza delivery guy, friends with new cars, as many experiences as you can capture. And keep notes about times, dates and places. Take a cue from this guy about adding metadata to photos for future reference.

I’m sure a few people found Charles Cushman’s photos interesting while he was alive, but nothing like today. Today they’re a rich glimpse into life as it was for three decades, how the world looked and worked.

street corner in Chicago
A Chicago street corner circa 1944 is one of thousands of such photos - via Indiana University

Today the world is flooded in digital images of everything imaginable and yet there are relatively few people actually documenting the world around them for future generations.

Charles Cushman dragged his camera gear around with him for 32 years and left behind a legacy of history that is, in many ways, priceless.

Corner of Pearl Street, October 7, 1942
Three homeless people from South Ferry doss houses are in Battery Park on June 6, 1941

Some photos via DialyMail