An interdisciplinary journal about regions, places, and cultures of the US South and their global connections

Color Photographs from the Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information

Posted on May 8, 2012 by

Jesse P. Karlsberg, Emory University

in Re: Southern Spaces, Images
Posted on: 
May 8, 2012

Jesse P. Karlsberg, Emory University

John Vachon, Workers leaving Pennsylvania shipyards, Beaumont, Texas, 1943.
John Vachon, Workers leaving Pennsylvania shipyards, Beaumont, Texas, 1943. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, FSA/OWI Color Photographs Collection, LC-USW36-839.

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.

John Vachon, Southland Paper mill, Kraft (chemical) pulp used in making newsprint, Lufkin, Texas, 1943.
John Vachon, Southland Paper mill, Kraft (chemical) pulp used in making newsprint, Lufkin, Texas, 1943. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, FSA/OWI Color Photographs Collection, LC-USW36-836.
Arthur Rothstein, Community clothesline, FSA camp, Robstown, Texas, 1942.
Arthur Rothstein, Community clothesline, FSA camp, Robstown, Texas, 1942. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, FSA/OWI Color Photographs Collection, LC-USF35-299.
John Vachon, Nearly exhausted sulphur vat from which railroad cars are loaded, Freeport Sulphur Co., Hoskins Mound, Texas, 1943.
John Vachon, Nearly exhausted sulphur vat from which railroad cars are loaded, Freeport Sulphur Co., Hoskins Mound, Texas, 1943. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, FSA/OWI Color Photographs Collection, LC-USW36-825.
A train bringing copper ore out of the mine; fumes from smelting copper for sulfuric acid have destroyed all vegetation and eroded the land, Ducktown, Tennessee, 1939.
Marion Post Wolcott, A train bringing copper ore out of the mine; fumes from smelting copper for sulfuric acid have destroyed all vegetation and eroded the land, Ducktown, Tennessee, 1939. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, FSA/OWI Color Photographs Collection, LC-USF35-103.
Marion Post Wolcott, Burley tobacco is placed on sticks to wilt after cutting, before it is taken into the barn for drying and curing on the Russell Spears' farm, vicinity of Lexington, Kentucky, 1940.
Marion Post Wolcott, Burley tobacco is placed on sticks to wilt after cutting, before it is taken into the barn for drying and curing on the Russell Spears' farm, vicinity of Lexington, Kentucky, 1940. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, FSA/OWI Color Photographs Collection, LC-USF35-165.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
CAPTCHA
Please fill out the field below to demonstrate that you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.