The lush greens and vibrant reds of the jungles of the Philippines are represented in typical WWII photography as dull grays, whites and blacks. In this case, a WWII U.S. Navy seabee shot 35mm Kodachrome in an attempt to document his surrounding environment for posterity. Although the non-martial content of the slides may be boring to some, it is an incredibly rare glimpse into the everyday life of the seabee during WWII.
Blanchard Robert “Woody” Woodill was born in 1916 in Glendale, California to Arthur and Maude Woodill. His father was a successful car dealer in Los Angeles at the time, and likely planted the seeds that would eventually help design one of the most popular post-war American sports cars. During WWII, Woody became a professor of Aeronautical Engineering at the the University of Southern California. In 1948 he bought his father’s Dodge dealership in Downey, California and started down the path that would take him from car salesman to car designer. Using his engineering and artistic skills (more on this later) he was able begin design on the car that would make him famous. He purchased two Glasspar fiberglass body kits from Bill Tritt in Santa Ana, CA and eventually found a chassis designer to sign on board. The Woody Wildfire was born. The original sale price on the factory built Woodill Wildfire was roughly $3,000. They now sell at classic auto auctions for over $100,000. Very cool!
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What does a car designer have to do with PortraitsofWar? I was recently able to pick up an interesting set of 35mm color Kodachrome slides on eBay for a decent price. I knew the photos were taken with an artist’s eye given the subject matter, poses, and setting of the shots. After researching the address listed on the Kodachrome box, I realized that the photographer was actually working for the Southern California WPA as a photographer of Southern California life. This fits in nicely with his profession as a professor of aeronautics at USC and makes sense given the quality of the images he took in the Southern California Desert. His capturing of the emerging role of women on the homefront highlights the social realism that plays an important role in the WPA art of the period.
Kodachrome Box and Address
Original eBay Listing
Model Climbs into Biplane
Flight over the Desert
More Airplane Fun