“Photos: America in Color from 1939-1943”

The Faro Caudill family eating dinner in their dugout. Pie Town, New Mexico, October 1940. Reproduction from color slide. Photo by Russell Lee. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

The Faro Caudill family eating dinner in their dugout. Pie Town, New Mexico, October 1940. Reproduction from color slide. Photo by Russell Lee. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

I saw this enchanting exhibit at the Albright Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, NY, a couple of years ago. The Denver Post has a marvelous online gallery of these rare colour images, taken by photographers of the Farm Security Administration [FSA]/Office of War Information. From the Albright Knox Gallery’s notes on the show:

“No one knows exactly how many frames they shot in color, but only 1,615 survive. Until recently, most of these images had not been seen since they were initially processed by Kodak’s lab in Rochester well over half a century ago. Kodachrome, the most stable fine-grain color film ever made, was introduced as 16mm movie film in 1935. During the following three years it became available in canisters for 35mm cameras and in sheets for medium- and large-format cameras. By late 1939, the processing was as good as the film, and some … FSA photographers began experimenting with it. They continued their work after the FSA project was absorbed by the Office of War Information (OWI) in 1942, through its dissolution in 1944. All of the project’s surviving color images are now available as high-resolution scans from the Library of Congress. …

“Color photography would not find a firm base in the art world until the exhibition of works by William Eggleston (American, born 1939) at The Museum of Modern Art in 1976, but, as the images in this exhibition demonstrate, the path was marked decades before by [the] FSA team. Their assignment was to document what America looked like during and at the end of the Great Depression; in the process, they discovered new ways the camera lens could see and represent the world.”

It’s hard to believe, today, that collectors turned up their nose at colour photography for most of the twentieth century.

(h/t to Lincoln Clarkes for providing the Denver Post online-gallery link on his FB page)

No comments yet»

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s