Sunday, August 17, 2008

PBS Debuts Series on the FSA OWI Photographers

“DOCUMENTING THE FACE OF AMERICA: ROY STRYKER AND THE FSA/OWI PHOTOGRAPHERS” documents the Face of America and features oncamera interviews with FSA photographers Gordon Parks, Rondal Partridge and Louise Rosskam.

Dorthea Lange's photo 'Migrant Mother' of Florence Thompson with three of her children in the photograph
Above you will recognize the famous Dorthea Lange photo "Migrant Mother" of Florence Thompson with three of her children in the photograph. This version is, however, the un-retouched version (with the wood tent pole off to the right in the foreground).  We all are so very fortunate to have access to these photographs. This and many others can be found in the Library of Congress arcvhives.

Ansel Adam's photo 'Roy Takeno (Editor) and group reading Manzanar paper [i.e. Los Angeles Times] in front of office, Yuichi Hirata, Nabuo Samamura, Manzanar Relocation Center, California'
This photograph is probably a lot less known. It can also be found on the website of the Library of Congress. Ansel Adam's photo 'Roy Takeno (Editor) and group reading Manzanar paper [i.e. Los Angeles Times] in front of office, Yuichi Hirata, Nabuo Samamura, Manzanar Relocation Center, California. It is not part of the FSA/OWI it is from the same era and the copyright office notes that "there are no known restrictions on Ansel Adams' Manzanar War Relocation Center photographs. Privacy and publicity rights may apply." Ansel Adams donated these photographs to the Library of Congress back from 1965-1968 I encourage you to browse the Collections yourself to see what you can find. Please note that each set of photographs has their own usage restrictions and if you are interested in using a photo you should click on the "Bibliographic" information link and then on the "How to obtain copies of this item" information link.

John Vachon's photo 'Negro boy near Cincinnati, Ohio'
Many may be surprised to know that there were photographers commisioned to create images in color as well. This photo was created in either 1942 or 1943 by John Vachon and is titled "Negro boy near Cincinnati, Ohio."

The website of the Library of Congress
describes their archive collection: "The photographs in the Farm Security Administration - Office of War Information Photograph Collection form an extensive pictorial record of American life between 1935 and 1944. This U.S. government photography project was headed for most of its existence by Roy E. Stryker, who guided the effort in a succession of government agencies: the Resettlement Administration (1935-1937), the Farm Security Administration (1937-1942), and the Office of War Information (1942-1944). The collection also includes photographs acquired from other governmental and non-governmental sources, including the News Bureau at the Offices of Emergency Management (OEM), various branches of the military, and industrial corporations. In total, the black-and-white portion of the collection consists of about 171,000 black-and-white film negatives, encompassing both negatives that were printed for FSA-OWI use and those that were not printed at the time . . ."

This should be a worthwhile program to watch on PBS. It Debuts on Monday 18 August 2008 and repeats thereafter.

“If you could get all the work that Stryker was responsible for, you would see the face of America in the 1930s and ‘40s that nobody has ever seen together.”
– Gordon Parks

The New York Times describes the series as: “Documenting the Face of America: Roy Stryker and the F.S.A./O.W.I. Photographers,” an hourlong documentary on most PBS stations Monday night. The film shows how Mr. Stryker turned a small government agency’s New Deal project to document poverty into a visual anthology of thousands of images of American life in the 1930s and early ’40s that helped shape modern documentary photography”

You can read more about the series in a New York Times article or you can download the Press Release. Make sure you visit PBS to check your local times. The program has its Cleveland Digital TV Debut 25.1 at 10PM on Auguts 18th & its Analog TV Debut at 10PM on August 30th on Chanel 25 WVIZ PBS Cleveland-- don't ask me why. (Note: in digital TV lingo, the .x represents the alternate channels that a broadcaster offers such as 25.1, 25.2, 25.3, etc.)

All Photographs © Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division & the respective photographer /

What a great legacy that these photographers and our country has left to us and to our children.

Until I Blog again, remember not to take life too seriously and make sure you tell someone that is close to you how much you care for them.

Thanks for reading,

John :)

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