Just the other day on my walk home from the office, I was listening to an old episode of This American Life. The theme of the episode was “Who do you think you are” and discussed the ever-present conflict between those who have and those who have not. Act One featured snippets of interviews by the great reporter Studs Terkel, who recorded oral histories of ordinary Americans for the majority of his career in radio. In this particular collection, people reflected on their experiences during the Great Depression. For me, the frankness of these interviews was eye-opening.
Because of these stories, I’ve had Depression Era America on the brain and decided to poke around the internet for some photographs. During the 30s and 40s, the Farm Security Administration had a team of photographers who documented the lives of ordinary Americans and the effects of the Depression on their lives. Over 175,000 photographs were taken, and while the majority of them are black and white, some were shot on color transparency film. These color photographs were organized into an exhibit in 2006. They are beautiful and capture a side of the Depression that I’ve never seen before.
If you have some time, listen to the piece by Terkel and browse the photographs. All photos are property of the Library of Congress and on their site you can browse the entire FSA collection, the entire color collection or the top 15 requested prints. You can even request prints for yourself! The photos are public domain, after all. Meanwhile, enjoy this incredible collection of photographs.
Just amazing. If you feel so inclined, share the photographs of the Depression that you find most moving in the comments.