Southern Spaces recently added six new images to the rotating selection on our home page’s nameplate. We selected these images from the newly digitized Library of Congress collection of Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Color Photographs. This collection includes 1,600 color photographs taken between 1939 and 1944. Many of the images depict rural farming practices, social life in towns, factories and their environmental effects, and aspects of World War II mobilization.
The FSA/OWI Color Photographs collection complements the LoC’s Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Black-and-White Negatives collection which, with 175,000 images, dwarfs the color collection. The black-and-white collection includes such iconic images as Dorothea Lange’s 1936 Migrant Mother photograph and images by Let Us Now Praise Famous Men photographer Walker Evans.
These black and white photographs—many of which represent places in the US South—have become seared into the southern imaginary. Calling up associations of segregation and depression-era rural poverty, the photographs both tie the present-day South to these associations, and due to their black and white format, consign them to the distant past. Mediated by this representation, the South itself becomes separated from the present.
In color, however, these images present themselves as relevant to the present, rather than consigned to the past. By displaying the problems they depict—such as segregation, poverty, and environmental degradation—in a contemporary form, the images imply that such problems may continue to be critical today.
Southern Spaces will be posting images from the FSA/OWI Color Photographs collection, with captions, to our Featured Images series in the months to come. The images we chose to include in our banner are collected below.