The Photographers’ Gallery

Bound for Glory, America in Colour 1939 - 1943

08 Dec 2006 - 28 Jan 2007


Taken over sixty years ago, these colour photographs
offer a fresh perspective on one of the most important
periods of recent photographic and social history.
In 1930s & 40s America one third of the population
were ‘ill clothed, ill housed and ill-fed’. Until now the
grinding poverty of the time has been epitomised by
the iconic black and white images of Dorothea Lange,
Walker Evans and others, so these colour images by
Marion Post Wolcott, Russell Lee and Jack Delano
have an almost shocking immediacy and freshness
bringing to life the human cost of the Depression.
During this time, photographers were employed by
the FSA (Farm Security Administration) to garner
support for President Franklin D Roosevelt’s New Deal
by revealing the poverty of primarily rural America.
The initial black and white images were intended to
educate the wider population about the problem. Then
from 1939 colour photographs were taken to show the
improvements the New Deal had made, whilst
acknowledging that there was still work to be done.
These startling images were made possible by the
newly developed Kodachrome colour film.
The Depression was eclipsed by the horror of WWII,
and the colour FSA images were to remain half
forgotten in the Library of Congress. Having been
rediscovered, their importance and significance is
now beginning to be more widely understood. This
exhibition is a unique chance to see them alongside
better-known black and white work.
The book Bound for Glory, published by Abrams,
is available from the Bookshop price £25 / £22.50

© Russel Lee, 1940
Jack Whinery, homesteader, and his family, Pie Town, New Mexico
©Library of Congress, Washington DC

Tags: Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange