March 2008

by John G. Morris

These photographs of McClellan Street by David and Peter Turnley, taken in 1972-73, help us understand how America came to be the country that it is today.

Through these pictures the Turnleys give voice to the heart of America. McClellan Street's residents represented the "underclass," an America that is little understood and easily forgotten. The American Dream had left these people behind.

It was a time of war, the war in Vietnam, a war America came to regret. Some men of McClellan Street fought there. Their children have grown into the adults who, with their children, face yet another unwanted war.

With its rundown sidewalks and shabby houses, McClellan Street was never America the Beautiful. The photographs are not pretty, in the conventional sense. The street's residents are not chic or stylish; many go barefoot. But they are beautiful members of the Family of Man. It was a friendly neighborhood, its residents enjoying life's daily joys, sharing sadness, good weather and bad. It was for those reasons that the Turnley twins felt at home there and made it their own neighborhood. Their subjects became their friends, proudly displaying Turnley pictures of themselves. This is the street's family album.

It took uncommon dedication and sensitivity for two seventeen-year-olds to embark on such a project. It was my privilege to meet them and see their photographs soon after they finished it. They have both come a long way since then, but they never truly left McClellan Street. Indeed, they found McClellan Streets throughout the world.

McClellan Street is a gem of photographic documentation. Though the street itself is now an extended parking lot, its spirit, and the spirit of those times, lives on in this book.

© John G. Morris

John G. Morris has been called "the world's most influential photo editor." He was the first editorial director of Magnum Photos, picture editor at The New York Times, the Washington Post and Ladies' Home Journal, and a correspondent and editor at National Geographic. He was also Robert Capa's editor. Paris-based Morris is the author of "Get the Picture: A Personal History of Photojournalism."