Labor Day – America in Color from 1939-1943 contains images from the Library of Congress‘s Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information archives. The New Deal agency was headed by Roy Stryker, who said a primary goal of the photography program was to “introduce America to Americans.”
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.
The documentary photography produced during the 1930s by famed photographers like Dorothea Lange, Ben Shahn, and Walker Evans is justifiably famous. Less well known are the color images included in the Bound for Glory online exhibition. Labor Day – America in Color from 1939-1943 is worth a look. Enjoy!