Sunday, October 30, 2011

This Land is Our Land

In my post yesterday, I mentioned the Farm Security Administration and the photographers they hired to raise awareness, as we've come to call it, about "rural poverty." Looking back at that time, and living on the edge of it myself during the mid-to-late 1950's, it seems redundant. There were no wealthy people in rural America, and very few middle-class. The rural areas consisted almost exclusively of farmers, and most weren't even in striking distance of the middle-class, let alone any semblance of wealth as it's measured by most segments of society.

Besides the photographs taken in black and white, which created a stark vision of these people and their way of life, the photographers also shot many photos in color, which put things in yet another perspective. These included other aspects of American life during this period in our history. A few years ago, the Library of Congress held an exhibit of these photos called, "Bound for Glory: America in Color."  Last week, a friend sent a link to the Denver Post and its Plog, a blog dedicated to photography, which features the images shown at that exhibit. I'm including a link to that page, along with a few of my favorites.  It's not just the subjects that speak to me in these photographs, but the colors, the compositions, and the stories they tell.

Here's the link to the Denver Post Plog and the photographs. They speak for themselves:
Captured: America in Color from 1939-1943 – Plog Photo Blog

The photos (taken from color slides) and the photographers, in order:
A starch factory in Caribou, Aroostook County, Maine, 1940, by Jack Delano
Rural school children in San Augustin County, Texas, 1943, by John Vachon
Greene County, Georgia, 1941, by Jack Delano
Farm auction, Derby, Connecticut, 1940, by Jack Delano (Note the couple in the right foreground)
Woman at roundhouse giving a locomotive a steam bath, Clinton, Iowa, 1942, by Jack Delano
Welder in rail yard, Chicago, 1943, by Jack Delano
Assembling B-25 bombers, Kansas City, Kansas, 1942, by Alfred T. Palmer
The Caudill's, Pie Town, New Mexico, 1940, by Russell Lee
Juke Joint, Belle Glade, Florida, 1941, by Marion Post Wolcott

Note: remember that they can be enlarged by clicking on them.


  1. oooooh, glad I saw this! I love steam locomotives :-) gorgeous photography, thanks for sharing

  2. Hello my friend. I have been looking at those same photos this last week. Coincidence? I think not. (thank you for your support)

  3. Stunning shots, Teresa. I'm off to visit the Plog. Thanks for sharing this...

  4. Li, I love trains, especially the old steam locomotives! I'm glad you liked them, too.

    Michael, How cool is that? Love it! And you're very welcome.

    DJan, Aren't they great photos? I couldn't resist posting about them. You're welcome!

  5. I have always loved photos of the common folk--from any country at any time. It is always fascinating to see how people live and work and play. These are lovely!

    Since the invention of the camera and movies and videos...just think what they'll be able to see about us hundreds or thousands of years from now!! :)

  6. The last two photographs have a certain kind of dignity or worthiness to them. I've never seen these photos before and am glad you've shared them here. Rural life is certainly another world when compared with the city. Thinking about this life is so intriguing to me--perhaps because it is still a little foreign.

  7. I'm glad I found you as I enjoy the common life of people whether rural folks or more urbanized -- both offering creative distinctive stories. I guess I could succinctly say this group makes up a large percent of what we are as a diverse nation. Thanks -- barbara

  8. It is wonderful to see this era in color, Teresa. Thank you for posting them. B & W vs color really changes the emotions of a picture at times, doesn't it?

    My mother-in-law grew up during the Depression and recovery years on a farm in a small Ohio community. They were hard times, but, times filled with family as well as they lived sustaining themselves with what the soil yielded and other jobs. Your pictures remind me of some we have.

  9. This brought some very old memories to the surface for me, especially about the colors. I have many memories of growing up in a small Montana town in the 40's and many of these photos looked almost familiar. Things were so different back then. We were probably poor, but nobody ever told us that and I never knew. We were very rich in many things besides money though, and I did know that.

  10. Helo Teresa:
    Another way of life, another time, so very clearly represented here in these very vivid and poignant images. But, of course, and as you point out, not a lifetime ago.

  11. Rita, It is the common folk that have such appeal to me, too. I love the sense of inner dignity they have and how they attempt to show that to the world. It's an inner richness.

  12. Rubye Jack, I forget that you were more city oriented because you write about small town life with such awareness. Glad you liked these photos.

  13. Barbara, I'm glad we found each other. I love your photographs and look forward to your return to writing again on your blog. I'm enjoying reading back stories. It is the everyday that speaks volumes about us, about our country and way of life.

    Penny, Hard times yet filled with true substance. Not to idealize poverty, but it was a time of a cohesiveness in family that seems to be lacking now. Not necessarily the only way to go through life, but it did provide a sense of stability. The color does add another dimension, doesn't it?

    Montucky, There is at least one photo of small town Montana in that group of pictures online. We were poor, too, in the early years, but never really knew it. It wasn't how we viewed ourselves and we never felt that we were. It was just Life.

    Jane and Lance, Yes, it seems long ago, but in the face of history, it was just yesterday.

  14. It always helps to bring the past back for people who have no idea. It helps to explain the present.

    Stunning pictures, Teresa.

  15. That next to last shot shows pride, no matter what their financial situation these peole were proud of their lives.Very nice selections.

  16. Friko, "It helps to explain the present." Exactly so.

    Steve, As they should have been. Hard work and finding beauty where you are, is always commendable.

  17. Those old memories
    Of a gone world we recall
    In faded photos.

  18. Love the photos. I have never lived in the country or been poor, so it's like a foreign place to me. That's embarrassing. I took a road trip last spring to the midwest and spent a week there. I was amazed at the decency of the people I met.

  19. Thank you, Paul!

    Linda, You don't know what you've missed. :) Certainly nothing to be embarrassed about.

    There are good people here.

  20. Those are powerful words. My father grew up during the Depression on a small farm in southern Minnesota. Of the many stories he shared a few still stand out. He said, "We never ate chicken because that meant there was one less hen to lay eggs." We always slept in our clothes in the winter because the house was so cold." And, "My dad never carried a wallet because he no need for one."

  21. Steven, Nice to hear from you. Thanks for sharing your father's words here. It's hard for us to imagine a parent feeling that kind of poverty, but it's becoming commonplace once again.