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December 14, 2005


Photography is so cool. Here is an excerpt (photos after the description) from a current exhibition at the Library of Congress:

Bound for Glory: America in Color is the first major exhibition of the little known color images taken by photographers of the Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information (FSA/OWI). Comprised of seventy digital prints made from color transparencies taken between 1939 and 1943, this exhibition reveals a surprisingly vibrant world that has typically been viewed only through black-and-white images. These vivid scenes and portraits capture the effects of the Depression on America's rural and small town populations, the nation's subsequent economic recovery and industrial growth, and the country's great mobilization for World War II.

The photographs in Bound for Glory, many by famed photographers such as John Vachon, Jack Delano, Russell Lee, and Marion Post Wolcott, document not only the subjects in the pictures, but also the dawn of a new era -- the Kodachrome era. These colorful images mark a historic divide in visual presentation between the monochrome world of the pre-modern age and the brilliant hues of the present. They change the way we look -- and think about -- our past.

Some of the following photos are found in the expanded collection, America from the Great Depression to World War II, 1939-1945. I love these photos because the composition of each shot is so amazing, despite having been taken more than 60 years ago. It just goes to show that the quality of a photograph lies predominantly in the skill of the photographer, not necessarily their equipment.

All photos are credited to the Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA-OWI Collection and reproduced with permission. Click each photo for a high-resolution version.

John Vachon
Negro boy near Cincinnati, Ohio
1942 or 1943
LC-DIG-fsac-1a34281 DLC

Howard R. Hollem
Painting the American insignia on airplane wings is a job that Mrs. Irma Lee McElroy, a former office worker, does with precision and patriotic zeal. Mrs. McElroy is a civil service employee at the Naval Air Base, Corpus Christi, Texas. Her husband is a flight instructor.
August 1942
LC-DIG-fsac-1a34899 DLC

Alfred T. Palmer
M-4 tank crews of the United States, Ft. Knox, Ky.
June 1942
LC-DIG-fsac-1a35210 DLC

Alfred T. Palmer
Operating a hand drill at Vultee-Nashville, woman is working on a "Vengeance" dive bomber, Tennessee
February 1943
LC-DIG-fsac-1a35371 DLC

Alfred T. Palmer
A good job in the air cleaner of an army truck, Fort Knox, Ky.
June 1942
LC-DIG-fsac-1a35222 DLC

Alfred T. Palmer
Here's our mission - A combat crew receives final instructions just before taking off in a mighty YB-17 bomber from a bombardment squadron base at the field, Langley Field, Va.
May 1942
LC-DIG-fsac-1a35094 DLC

Marion Post Wolcott
A cross roads store, bar, "juke joint," and gas station in the cotton plantation area, Melrose, La.
June 1940
LC-DIG-fsac-1a34361 DLC

John Vachon
Rural school children, San Augustine County, Texas
April 1943
LC-DIG-fsac-1a35425 DLC

Posted by Highwaygirl on December 14, 2005 10:09 AM to the category Multimedia

I thought I'd use the Comments area to explain why I chose each photo.

Photo 1 - I think this shot is just gorgeous. The expression on the boy's face makes me wonder what kind of life he had, what he's thinking, etc. I love that he's in focus and the background is blurred, and that his bowler hat is cropped at the top of the photo.

Photo 2 - The woman painting the airplane exemplifies what I imagine when I think of how women used to look in the 1940s. She just looks so classic with her red lipstick and perfectly coiffed black hair. So, so pretty.

Photo 3 - I liked this one because the tank crew is a complete mess (dirty and sweaty) and yet they're all beaming. I also think the colors in this shot have held up particularly well.

Photo 4 - A "Rosie the Riveter" photo. I love how the red polish on her fingernails matches the red of her head scarf. She also looks like she could kick your ass if you messed with her, and I like that.

Photo 5 - This photo ... it appeals to me on an instinctual level, if that makes sense. I like the composition (the man is in profile) but I love the lighting (it illuminates his face from off camera to the left) - I'm immediately drawn to the man's face and then my gaze spreads out to the rest of the photo.

Photo 6 - Love the sky in the background, and the twilight lighting of this shot. Plus, I have a soft spot for B-17 crews. I love how warm this photo feels.

Photo 7 - I liked this one because the colors look bright and yet bleached out, both at the same time. I also really love old signage; it seems so quaint.

Photo 8 - This photo is exquisite. Four boys, all with slightly different expressions. I find myself wanting to know if they're brothers, relatives, schoolmates, etc. Your eye goes first to the boy in the very front because of his placement and the lighting of the shot, but I love how, despite this, he is slightly out of focus. The next two boys are the true focal points of the shot, and the blonde boy at the back is sinking into the shadows, yet your eye goes to him to try and make out the details in his face.

Posted by: Highwaygirl at December 14, 2005 10:22 AM
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