19 December 2005

Bound for Glory

Many of the photographs produced by the Farm Security Administration (FSA) project have passed into the photographic canon, including images by Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange and Berenice Abbott. Many of the black and white images are now an indispensible part of America's memory of itself.

What's not widely known however, is that many of the photographers were also shooting with the new Kodachrome film, images which can now be seen beside the familiar black and white record of struggle and grit. These ageing slides have now been painstakingly restored and printed.

Photographers on the vast project were employed by the Farm Security Administration and its successor agency, the Office of War Information (OWI), from 1935 to 1944. The original goal was to record, through documentary photographs, the ravages of the Depression on America’s rural population which was intended to furnish a propaganda effort to lobby Congress and the American public in support of government relief efforts. Their slogan was “introducing America to Americans”.

With the economy improving, increased industrialization and the beginning of World War II, the images began to reflect an America that was emerging from the worst of the economic slump and beginning to put the Depression behind it. The photographic project was eventually folded into the Office of War Information in 1943 and then abandoned altogether.

The Library of Congress in Washington D.C. has just closed “Bound for Glory: America in Color, 1939-1943”, the first major exhibition of the little-known color images taken by photographers of the FSA/OWI. It features 70 digital prints made from colour transparencies taken between 1939 and 1943.

What's really surprising about these images is how convincingly they give an impresssion of a country coming out of a social and economic hole and beginning to assert itself. The poverty is still plain to see, but the added colour conveys a definite sense of awakening.

A selection of the stunning images are accessible on the Library’s Web site.

"View in a departure yard at Chicago and Northwestern Railway Company's Proviso yard at twilight" Chicago, Illinois, December 1942

I came across this via Barista and the Library of Congress site.

1 comment:

I am the Queen of F*%&ING EVERYTHNG...OK!! said...

Althought the sepia and BW pics are nice it adds something when they are coloured I think.