Monday, December 20, 2010

Color Photographs of America, 1939-1943

In July of this year, The Denver Post's "Plog" photo blog presented a set of images from a remarkable 2006 exhibit from The Library of Congress: Bound for Glory: America in Color.

A woman and child near Natchitoches, LA, 1940

The set as a whole comes from the Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Collection whose photography project, spanning 1935-1944, was initially designed to monitor cash loans to farmers, and the construction of suburban communities. A second stage, according to the Library of Congress, "focused on the lives of sharecroppers in the South and of migratory agricultural workers in the midwestern and western states. As the scope of the project expanded, the photographers turned to recording rural and urban conditions throughout the United States and mobilization efforts for World War II."

Publications from and about the Farm Security Administration are available from the Government Information Library in Norlin Library.

The Whinery family in Pie Town, NM, 1940

The photos are notable for many reasons. Foremost, of course, they offer the opportunity to see the WWII-era States in color, which brings to a modern audience a sense of vibrancy and immediacy about the lives of Americans during the Second World War. In the selection highlighted by the Denver Post, there seems to be another conversation presented about the visibly segregated lives of Anglo and African Americans. Taken as a whole, the set is a valuable look into lives and habits from the country's not-too-distant past.

A city for any era: Chicago in 1943

Some readers may find these pictures reminiscent of another set of color photographs from the early 20th Century, also presented by the LOC: The Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii Collection was placed online by the Library of Congress in the early 2000's and features rare color imagery of the Russian Empire between 1905 and 1915.

The Denver Post's PLOG has previously featured other photographs culled from the National Archives and Library of Congress, including a set on American cities before 1950, and Ansel Adams's infamous photographs of the Japanese Internment Camps located in California during World War II. It's an excellent site to bookmark for future visits.

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