VANISHINGAMERICA.COM is an opportunity for you to view and purchase uniqu images of our collective experienced and remembered past, accomplished and
collected by exemplary and award-winning photographer Tom Dickinson.
The primary objective is to display and sell photographs which record, depict, an most importantly, preserve, what I call “Vanishing America”…places and object that were once common to all of us (certainly the Baby Boomer and Greates generations), but are now rarely seen, and slowly, inexorably, disappearing forever from our visual world and experiences. The visual experience is intended to bring back pleasant memories, and to produce pleasure and enjoyment in remembering a simpler, less complex time, when life was slower and more manageable. In addition, you’ll also find here a large selection of other images of other subject that I’ve found appealing and interesting over the years, such as Travel, Nature, Fireworks, Fall Colors (Trees and Leaves), Collectible Vintage Americana, and Abstracts.
Here is a little background about me, and my affinity for photography I have owned a camera and have taken photographs continuously for over 6 years. My interest in photography started when I was about 7 years young. I discovered an old, fold-up, bellows-type Kodak Brownie camera at my Grandparent’s house in Southern Wisconsin. My Grandmother acquired this workhorse camera around 1915. I still own this camera. My Dad was also an avid photographer. He had darkroom skills and film processing and printmaking equipment and supplies in the basement of our
home. He acquired an Argus C-3 35mm camera during his service in the U.S. Army during WWII. He primarily shot Kodak Kodachrome color slide film. Sunday nights in my home routinely included watching “The Ed Sullivan Show” on a small black and white TV, followed by a big-screen, real-life, full-color slide show of my
Dad’s most recent photographs. I still have his collection of about 10,000 color slides, many of which are on this website.
In high school, I was the photographer for both the school newspaper and yearbook. I had sole access for 3 years to an almost new, fully stocked and equipped darkroom. I spent hundreds of hours in this fascinating imaging an chemistry sanctuary, processing Kodak Pan-X, Tri-X, and Plus-X black and white film, and then making prints on a huge Hurst enlarger, with an unlimited supply of printing and enlarging paper. I used a Kodak Retina-Reflex 35mm camera that I borrowed from my Grandfather. Sometime in the mid-1970s, I bought my first 35 SLR camera, a Pentax Spotmatic with a 55mm f 1.4 lens. I used this camera for the next 30 years, until I bought my first digital camera, an Olympus, in 2004.
When I moved to Arlington, Virginia in 1978, I was shocked by the routine and pervasive demolition of older homes and commercial buildings. In 27 years of living in my hometown in Wisconsin, I had never seen a home demolished; maybe an old shed or barn, but a home torn down? Never! The house I grew up in, and
most of those in my neighborhood, were built in the late 1800s, and while upgraded, were perfectly livable. In Arlington, perfectly livable homes were being routinely demolished, by the hundreds, every year. For some, this is the price of progress. For me, it is a sign of a lack of respect for and appreciation of ou common, historic built past.
I started documenting these many commercial and residential buildings in Arlington, and have since compiled a collection of thousands of images of a component of what I came to call “Vanishing America.” Forty years ago, I began photographing these rapidly and steadily disappearing buildings around Arlington
prior to their demolition.
Over the last 30-40 years, on average, one structure per day, about 400 per year, have been demolished in Arlington! This has resulted in a radical alteration of the visible built fabric of this community. This phenomenon of demolition is no unique to Arlington, or Northern Virginia. It happens anywhere that developers have free rein, and real estate economics create the opportunity for large profits. In 2006, I entered a local photography competition. I entered a montage of six photos that I’d taken on my high school senior class trip to Washington, D.C. in 1969. I was awarded Best of Show, Curator’s Choice, and County Purchase Award for this montage, displayed in an antique wooden window frame. Subsequently, I received a request from the Smithsonian Institution to donate the photos an frame to the Museum of American History on the Mall, where it is today. In 2017, I applied for and was awarded an Arlington Arts Council grant to produce an exhibit of photographs depicting what Arlington County looked like in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and what it looks like now. The completed exhibit presented, one-by-one, a side-by-side historic, photographic comparison of building in Arlington now demolished, and what exists in the same location today.
I titled the exhibit “Windows to the Past: Arlington, Then and Now.” I mounted the images in old multi-pane window frames which I salvaged from the actual old original buildings before they were demolished.
This exhibit was meant to be a commentary on rampant development in Arlington. It depicted how the unusual “Arlington Economic Dynamic” has forced radical physical changes throughout each and every neighborhood: extremel limited physical space + high demand = high cost/value, which drives such development.
All of the old window frames used in the exhibit were recovered and saved from the actual homes depicted. By using these original window frames, I also pay tribute to the exceptional, remarkable skill and craftsmanship that went into the construction of these older homes. Framing, walls, flooring, plumbing and heating
systems, roof structures, all were mostly hand built and/or installed. These windows were hand crafted, and those workers deserve recognition. This exhibit constituted about 10% of the structures which I have photographed. Custom frames of other structures are available here on this website. All individual window-frame photo compilations are for sale at $475 each, or two for $900. Included are two porcelain coated steel panels from the exterior of late 1940s Lustron Homes, of which 14 once existed in Arlington. There are 3 today. My first photographic subjects were not people, but outdoor scenes around my house and neighborhood, thus the basis for my lasting interest documentary
and scenic photography. As an avid reader in my youth, I developed a passion for history. I received a Bachelor of Arts degree in U.S. History from Beloit College. I have been a member of the Arlington Historical Society since 1981, and served as
Vice-President from 2006-2010, and President from 2010-12. i am currently a member of the Board of Directors of the Society. I also served on the Board of the Arlington Heritage Alliance from 2003-2011, and am a founding Director of Preservation Arlington.
I hope you will enjoy this website as much as I have acquiring, collecting, and presenting these images of “VANISHING AMERICA.”
Contact: Tom Dickinson, 703-841-4992, email@example.com