Great Depression – Portraits

These pictures are some of the very few color photographs that document american’s rural life and the effects of the Great Depression.

Russell Lee - Jack Whinery, homesteader, and his family. Pie Town, New Mexico, October 1940
Russell Lee – Jack Whinery, homesteader, and his family. Pie Town, New Mexico, October 1940

In 1939, The U. S. government hired photographers to document the need for and effectiveness of government aid programs during the Depression. Taken untill 1943 for the Farm Security Administration and Office of War Information under the direction of Roy Emerson Stryker, the 1,600 color photographs are nowadays own by the Library of Congress, as the best-known black and white FSA photographs.

These rare photos show Americans in every part of the nation and emphasizd in the early years the rural life and the negative impact of the Great Depression, and later, the mobilization effort for World War II. Poverty-stricken small towns, industry and recreational activities, that has typically been viewed only through black and white images, appear here surprisingly vibrant. Color transparencies from 35 mm to 4-by-5 inches, they document every aspects of the rural and urban life of Americans at War and at the same time, the dawn of the Kodachrome era.

In 2006, they were part of an exhibition called “Bound for Glory: America in Colors”, the first major show of the little known color images from the FSA.

Here a selection of portraits:

Photo credits: Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress — All Rights Reserved

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