It was news to me that during the Works projects of the FDR administration, photographers were sent out to capture everyday American life. I suppose I knew those black and white photos of roadstands, farms, city streets had to come from somewhere, but I never bothered to think about it, I suppose. Well, even more surprising than an agency created for the purpose of collecting and preserving Americana during the dark days of the Depression and WWII, is the fact that some of these rare images are in color. Yep, Kodachrome color – brand new technology.
Most of us think in terms of black and white when we think of that time period. Dustbowl departees, desolate farmers, aprons in shades of gray. But a fraction of the photos taken were in color and those photos are accessible now from the Library of Congress. Even the government has gotten into Flickr, because you can find the images there for free. For those who want a more streamline, edited version, with commentary, the book Bound for Glory does a nice job explaining the projects and the photographers who did the work, as well as highliging some of the best images from the collection.
I’ve found several photos that I have really enjoyed and a few surprises. Bet you wouldn’t have guessed how popular dusky peach nail polish was for women during the Depression, women who worked the fields with their barefoot kids along side them, chipped nail polish clearly visible in the photos. The photos of Pie Town are especially poignant and worth a look.
*Photo found here, taken in Pie Town, New Mexico no less.