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Bound for Glory: America in Color 1939-43 Hardcover – May 1, 2004

4.8 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Harry N. Abrams; 1st Printing edition (May 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0810943484
  • ISBN-13: 978-0810943483
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 0.8 x 11.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #655,915 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Danusha V. Goska on November 28, 2004
Format: Hardcover
The average modern citizen in the West is awash in images.

This was brought home to me when I was teaching in a small village in Nepal. I was told not to use photographs or even drawings in class because Nepali villagers, who haven't seen many or even any photographs, might not know how to visually decode them. (FTR: I did use visual aids, and my students did learn to decode them.)

The average modern American is very different. We are so inundated by images that we can walk by an exquisite Ansel Adams print or a map of horror like Picasso's "Guernica" and not see or feel anything.

My American students have to be taught, not how to to decode photographs, but how to get in touch with their own response to photographs -- to learn that images of violence or sexual exploitation do have an impact, an impact they've been taught to ignore.

When a photography book, from its front cover to its last page, grabs me and doesn't let me go, when I can feel a photography book reach into my visual cortex and move around the furniture, I know that that photography book is something special.

"Bound for Glory" did just that.

E. H. Gombrich, in his book "Art and Illusion," talks about "schemata," or visual formulas that limit how artists can represent the world, and, thus, how consumers of art can view the world, in any given era.

As I gazed at "Bound for Glory's" images, I could feel my "schemata" being set in motion as if they had been wallflowers at a dance, and this book got those "schemata" up and dancing around, assuming positions they'd never assumed before.

The 175 photos span an era from the late 1930's to the early 1940's.
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Format: Hardcover
In Paul Hendrickson's introduction to this wonderful book he suggests that many people (including himself) sort of believe the Great Depression existed only in black and white. I'll agree with him because having collected a few dozen books devoted to FSA photos it is strange to see color photos taken by the same small group of brilliant photographers who took thousands of monochrome images that defined the Nation's view of the Depression. He also mentions the important observation that most color photos used in print media at the time were for decorative or flamboyant editorial use, in other words color for colors sake and of course color was used extensively for advertising.

With 175 photos the book starts with an FSA view of the countryside and then merges into urban, city and railroad shots and finally images of war production, mostly dealing with aircraft. I don't think the last photos have the emotional punch of the earlier FSA work, they seem more photos of record. Of the FSA section of the book (with sixty or so photos) there are eighteen beautiful shots by Russell Lee taken in Pie Town, New Mexico, he had already taken many photos here, which are now considered some of his greatest work.

The color film used for all the work in the book was the newly developed Kodachrome and perhaps this explains why many photos have an overdeveloped darkness but when mixed with the greens and browns of the countryside, city and factory it gives all these pictures an authentic texture.

I think this is a wonderful book of photos and the addition of color, especially to the FSA ones, reveals an intriguing new look and feel to a black and white vision of the past.

***FOR AN INSIDE LOOK click 'customer images' under the cover.
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By Judy Paris on November 29, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I brought this book after reading a NY times review. Finally-history that is in real color, not the typical black and white we're so use to. It makes the era seem so much more alive and real. The photos displayed are beautiful - there's such a real display of feelings and emotions. I just love this gem.
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Format: Hardcover
The book is called "Bound for Glory" and is a collection of 175+ COLOR photographs of America from 1939-1943. Many of you may be aware of the work of the new deal photographers who were dispatched to document the plight of the Depression. The majority of these pictures (and thus our own viewpoint on the period) was in black and white.

However, in the late 30s, Kodak unveiled Kodachrome film and these gifted "squinters through a box" were given a new weapon in their visionary arsenal -- color.

This book and its barely 10% of the minimal 1600 color shots in the archives is a literal eye opening experience. No Hollywood creation of the era comes close in terms of presenting to us how things really were. But to see men, women, children, animals, stores, and events through the eyes of other photographers is always fascinating... and to see this period as if we had just taken the picture is amazing.

I highly recommend you find this book to just look at -- American or otherwise -- and take in the beautiful work of these masters of our craft.
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Format: Hardcover
The Farm Security Administration and the Office of War Information photographically recorded American life in the late 1930s and early 1940s. The very best of the photographic images taken in full color have been selected for presentation to a new generation of Americans in Bound For Glory: America In Color 1939-43. Featuring an informed and informative introduction by Paul Hendrickson, these photos taken from the FSA/OWI Collection in the Library of Congress document a yesteryear America that ranges from 32 states, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. Here chronicled and showcased are scenes from the the American countryside and city, farms and factories; Americans at work and at play. This coffee table book is an impresive memorial tribute to pioneering work in color photography and a welcome addition to any personal, academic, or profession photography book collection.
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