Thanks to famous documentary photographs of Americans during the Great Depression, we tend to visualize everything that happened in the 1930s in black-and-white. In fact, Kodachrome first became available in the U.S. in 1935, and several photographers for the Farm Security Administration experimented with the new color film as they traveled across the country. Bound for Glory: America in Color 1939-43
presents an oddly startling world of small towns and country roads ablaze in the vivid hues of real life. A sunburned family in Pie Town, New Mexico, eat a dinner of homemade biscuits, grits, and gravy. Sisters wearing print dresses all made from the same rose and blue fabric seem dazed at the wonders of a state fair in Vermont. Work horses graze on bright green grass under a moody Kansas sky. Chosen from an archive of about 1,600 vintage color slides, the 175 photos in the book are the work of several documentary photographers, including Marion Post Wolcott and Jack Delano. Partway through this panorama of Americana, the tone and subject matter shift. Suddenly, the U.S. is at war, and the casual, unposed quality of the earlier images shifts into self-conscious glorification of the American war effort by the Office of War Information, with shots of steel mills and train yards, and of women newly hired by factories to assemble bomber parts. It's clear from Paul Hendrickson's engaging introduction that the pre-war images are the ones he finds most captivating. This slender volume--which aptly borrows the title of Dustbowl troubadour Woody Guthrie's autobiography--offers a window on a distant era in which grinding poverty and racial segregation coexist with the simple pleasures of rural and small-town life. Cathy Curtis
From Publishers Weekly
Taken from 1939 to 1943 under the auspices of the Farm Security Administration and the Office of War Information, these 175 "lost" photos feature shots by Russell Lee, Andreas Feininger and Marion Post Wolcott, using the then-revolutionary technology of Kodachrome film. Color photographs taken before 1939 have largely deteriorated, so these surviving photos are later than the most familiar b&w Depression-era shots. This 11¾"×8½" volume thus "colorizes" one's normally black-and-white impressions of a very vibrant time, as Hendrickson (Sons of Mississippi
) notes in his introduction. The logic behind the arrangement of the photos, which at first seems largely random, as it follows neither photographer, location nor chronology, becomes clear by the end of the book: the U.S.'s industrial rise. Images of urban lethargy and farmhands picking cotton under hot blue skies (the unbearable conditions of cotton-picking somehow seem more apparent in color) gradually give way to images of mobility, mechanization and a changing economy. Arnold T. Palmer's gleaming portraits of Rosie the riveter–like aircraft workers follow Jack Delano's earthier photos of male railroad workers, their sweaty and intent faces caked with soot. Tellingly, the book ends with photos of bombers flying over California.
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