Emmett H. Davis was born and raised in Nelsonville, Ohio. At 90 years old, he has seen the town grow up into what it is today. After being discharged from the Army Air Corps in February 1946, he returned to Nelsonville and spent the next 40 years as an ironworker. Now as a retired WWII veteran, he still manages to keep incredibly busy.
“I dropped out of high school senior year and joined the Army Air Corps,” says Emmett Davis. “We shipped out of New York Harbor on October 8, 1943. My nineteenth birthday, October 13, was spent on the ocean.”
At 90, Emmett keeps a stringent routine to keep him busy. Almost every morning he goes to The Mine tavern in downtown Nelsonville and drinks coffee with various friends. The tavern is as old as the town, and named after the city’s old cash crop, coal. There are a scattering of old men along the bar, some drinking beer, some drinking coffee. Emmett shakes hands and makes small talk. After his coffee he goes over to the post office to check for mail and then heads to the bank to deposit money for any one of the groups he is a treasurer for. Wherever he goes people smile and wave.
He’s spent his whole life in this town, and as an iron worker, had his hand in a lot of the growth Nelsonville has seen over the years. He laments about the new bypass, which is already closing down many of the buildings that he grew up around. On Sundays, he goes to Nelsonville Wesleyan Church. His wife Vera has been a church pianist there for 40 years, and Emmett is the treasurer. As the men gather in the basement for bible study, Emmett sits in his little “office” next door and counts the donations. After bible study finishes, he heads upstairs to church.
This is his routine, day in and day out. “I’ve had cancer three times” he says, “and I have a pacemaker, but I’m not on any medication, just vitamins. I stay busy.”
As winter approaches, he goes out less and less—the back roads where he lives outside of town are narrow and treacherous. As a man who stays so active, it is hard to imagine his true age. It almost seems as if, one day, instead of dying, he’ll just get in his truck and drive away.
Guide note: There are less then 2 million remaining World War II veterans alive in the United States today. The VA projects that by 2036 none will remain, and also says that currently almost 1,000 die every day. With this short photo story, I hope to show a small vignette of one soldier’s life, and how he keeps busy in retirement, while still trying to show glimpses from his past. I believe this to be important because, as the Greatest Generation becomes relegated to the history books, we as a society will find ourselves looking back and wondering, “Who were the men and women that served, what did they look like, and what happened to them after the war?” This will be one of many answers.
Editor’s note: Ohio is home to many WWII veterans, ranking sixth in the nation and behind only the more populous states of California, Florida, Texas, Pennsylvania and New York.
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Adam Birkan is a soon-to-be-graduating Senior photojournalism student in the School of Visual Communication at Ohio University. Born in the “Holy Land” (Jerusalem, Israel) and raised in “not so holy” Cincinnati, Ohio. He has travelled to some 30 countries and plans to travel to 160 more. He is currently planning his move to Thailand (semi-permanently,) and would love to get any and all tips/contacts/work. You can see his work at adambirkanphoto.com, adambirkan.tumblr.com, and instagram.com/adambirkan.
This dispatch arrived care of THE AMERICAN GUIDE submission page. Be a guide yourself and send a post from your state: theamericanguide.org/submit.
Economic disparity is sometimes subtle rather than blatant. It is quiet and insidious. It doesn’t always represent itself in a clear and concise manner. Sometimes the disparity is woven into the very fabric of a culture. The aesthetics of culture are slowly conditioning us to accept disparity as the norm. It’s not just the poor versus the wealthy. It is a war between color, texture, and design. Each of these elements has symbols, and each of these symbols change meaning as they are perceived by the various groups of the social strata. This project is set in Bangkok, my home for now. It is an attempt define and explore economic disparity with the opinion that it has become institutionalized. But the idea goes beyond this city, it is global, and the definition of disparity is nefarious.
Bangkok based photographer, Adam Birkan brings us a beautiful look into Thailand’s capitol with a series of shots that play with space, color, and people. An almost quiet look into the city where no one’s really paying attention. The lines, the play on design, the negative space, we’re eating it all up and hoping there’s second helpings.
MIKE JANIK: I wanted to be a lawyer for most of my childhood, but eventually I realized law was generally just a mess so I wound up with aspirations to get into the creative industries. Marketing seems tight, we’ll see where those ambitions go.
JC: Who or what is inspiring you at the moment?
MJ: I’ma list some homies out real quick:
Adam Birkan has been killing it recently with his architecture photos out in Bangkok, it’s 🔥 🔥 🔥.
William Patrick was the dude whose work inspired me to get into shooting architecture stuff, he’s a king when it comes to framing shots perfectly, the colours in his photos are second to none as well.
Patrick Joust is a recent follow, I’ve slept on his work for too long. Works with many different films and does some really fly landscape/architecture/street culture photography. His stuff is on another level, it’s not typical street photography, I use the phrase street culture for a reason.
Daniel Diasgranados is always trying experimental stuff with his cameras, he got me curious about shooting film so I’ve got a lot of respect for him. His new work has been consistently flawless, dude is gonna go down in history for real for real.
JC: What are you up to right now?
MJ: I’m just chilling in a coffee shop typing this. But I’m at uni, only another year and a half and ya boy is free. Working on a sociology degree and always coming up with new art projects to work on. 🙏
JC: Have you had mentors along the way?
MJ: Laird Kay has hands down been my biggest mentor. He’s one of the most knowledgable and selfless dudes I’ve spoken to, he’s always encouraged me to stay focused on my work and has dropped a lot of knowledge about how to professionally present my work and get recognition. He’s an ill aviation/architecture photographer and designer and he’s from my city, so it’s all love, you should all check him out. 💯
JC: Where are you based right now and how is it shaping you?
MJ: I’m based in Toronto and I’m capturing it in a perspective never before done (I don’t know if that’s actually accurate, I just haven’t seen anyone else doing it like I am 💪). I run around the city through alleys and up fire escapes and photograph how architecture and design blend. Toronto is an incredible city and it’s been incredibly formative for me, there’s so much to explore and it’s pushing me to step my game up and do things differently. It’s on the come up culturally and I want to be part of that. The competition is wild but I love my city and I’m just trying to add to the culture and make an impact on the community.
JC: One piece of advice to photography graduates?
MJ: Collaborate with other artists and share your creativity.
JC: If all else fails - what is your plan B?
MJ: Hustle through the industry and get this money one way or another 💸
JC: Is it important to you to be a part of a creative community?
MJ: Absolutely. We all drive each other to be the best we can. They’re the squad and I’ve always got love for them.