from Harlem Document project
This photograph highlights the intrinsic qualities of language and juxtaposition and how their creative capacities enrich—even dictate—the interpretations of combinations of text and image.
In Peace Meals of 1937, Siskind cleverly derives a title from the sign beneath the window, turning “PEACE Home Cooked Meals” into “Peace Meals.” The homophone “piecemeal[s]” describes something fragmented, in pieces, or done little by little. In the context of the Great Depression, “piecemeal” could refer to a fragmented society, the economy in pieces, and/or the process of changing either or both of these conditions, little by little.
For contemporary viewers, the use of “Peace” in the name of the eatery calls to mind the violence that would soon erupt with Japan’s invasion of China in 1939 and Germany’s invasion of Poland in 1940. In this way, “Peace Meals” works as both a hopeful epithet and, in retrospect, an omen of impending war.
MD, PHOTOdocument exhibition, March 30, 2012-July 22, 2012
African American; food; men; text
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