What story do these images tell? David Adcock's story, for one. It is the story of an American family ruptured by tragedy, the deaths in quick cascade: mother, father, John F. Kennedy. In 1963, at age nine, David moved to Germany with his sister and brother in law, an Air Force orthodontist stationed in Wiesbaden. David spent his formative years touring the old art and glories of post-war Europe, collecting ephemera, observing the spiraling drama of his relatives. It is the story of America on a Cold War grand tour, a succession of unshakeable young moments.
To this day, David holds up his life to the light of those three years. Walking from one room of his apartment to the next, his conversation arcs between Oxford, North Carolina, European destinations, family snapshots, Hollywood starlets, and back again to his living room in Greensboro. Often, as he stitches together another brilliant, meandering anecdote from these flashes of memory, slowly the moment dims into some shadow or parody of a past life.
David relives his version of the Sixties with sharp wit cut with tragedy. He collected Nazi postcards, witnessed the deaths of his parents, and looted a piece of wallpaper from Anne Frank's annex with the same childlike abandon. Today he appears at formal functions in a tuxedo and blue face paint, as if to acknowledge in his own way the mark of what he has seen, an act equal parts absurdist avowal and childish denial.
Photographs made for this book by Sarah Martin bring the present into relief against the European backdrop some forty years distant. Certain images are carried through and reemerge: David appears beneath a cherry tree in his brother in law's Lawrence of Arabia costume. In another, he doodled a Hitleresque mustache on one of his childhood portraits and hung it beside his front door for us to find. These costumes and characters are spontaneous, idiosyncratic enactments of the scenes found in the slides once stacked and loose in boxes around his living room, now collected for this book, but always draped across his everyday like visions from a humming projector.
Layout and written statement by Travis Diehl
The Madonna Photo
This is taken in our guestroom in Oxford, North Carolina. This is my oldest sister, Helen, with her second child—a son, as we know from the blue blanket. It's 1962. And, not too many years earlier—this was my earliest memory—I woke up looking through the bars at this wallpaper.
My mother died in 1962.
My father disappeared and was found dead in 1963.
JFK was killed on November 22, 1963.
The church in Oxford bought myself, my brother and sister matching suitcases and we went to live with my eldest sister and her husband in Germany in December of 1963. I was nine years old.
Nothing has ever affected me as much as seeing this did.
We lived with a German family on the first floor in the middle of a vineyard—it's called living on the economy—before we moved into government housing. The German family was upstairs and we were downstairs. They weren't real big on heat, so when the slides came in we would show them and we would all warm our hands around the projector. We watched the slides and we heard about them and so in a way I feel like I went on all the trips. I feel a real kinship to the slides for that reason.
This is my niece Dorothy, and my nephew John. This is John's room in Germany. Very small room. That's Dorothy's doll's chair. He's reading—subconsciously reading—a comic book there, and you can tell he's a future scholar. When I took this wonderful photography class, I did a series of photographs, and they were portraits without the people in them. I took a picture of John's current home and his dressing area, which is about the same size as this room, that's where he keeps all his graduate degrees.
This is in our apartment in Wiesbaden. We were on the top floor, the third floor. Dorothy was born in 1960, and John in 1962, and that's probably the most calm I've ever seen them together, including last week at their birthday. They are sibling rivals from hell.
We were at Hitler's house in southern Germany. It had been bombed by the Allies pretty much to smithereens. I'm sitting on the wall where the picture window once was. The slide film was jammed in John Senior's camera, and he had to open up the back of the camera in order to rewind it. He borrowed a woman's coat on the bus so the light wouldn't ruin the film. Well the woman's coat was red. So here I am bleeding for the Third Reich.
I signed my initials in Eva Braun's bedroom. It seemed like the thing to do. I wasn't the first.
We went on the outskirts of Rome to see the catacombs, and the guide said they would light torches, human torches of Christians going into town. I was ten years old. They hid down there, and their symbol was the fish. My nephew John, who is a scholar, said that when two Christians met one another, it was a kind of code. One would do their foot like this, and after a while the other would do the opposite, so they made a fish with their feet in the earth. To me this was so much more profound than anything in the Vatican.
When we moved back to Greensboro, North Carolina, John Senior took up with his secretary, a.k.a. The Ice Queen. I didn't brush my teeth for months. There were no more slides because there was no more family.
Do I want to be single forever?
I hope so!
I can't imagine not being alone.
My New Goals1. To have a working art room
2. To draw or paint everyday
3. To write everyday
4. To become self-sufficient, and if that doesn't work... I'm not above bank robbery
These images represent a small sampling of the project "Red Photo, Golden Years".
For inquiries about the book or to see more images, please contact Sarah via email at firstname.lastname@example.org