Saturday, November 5, 2011

Rural Life in the Forties

IT'S HARD TO RESIST THE ALLURE OF COLOR in imagery that you've always associated with a black-and-white world. The photograph illustrating our last post (on World War One) is an example. There's a treasure trove of the same ready to be mined at the indispensable Shorpy site. There you can find easily-downloadable, beautiful color photographs – commissioned by the US Rural Security Administration – of rural people and landscapes of 1940 and 1941. There's cheerfulness and worry, community and loneliness, plenty and want. Thanks to the unexpected color, the subjects of the photos jump off the page and sufficiently grab our attention so that we're compelled to look at them outside the frame – albeit the magnificent frame – of Dorothea Lange and the gray shades of the Dust Bowl. It was life they were living back then, and they were full-blooded participants, in living color.

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