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Rare Colored Photographs of America Coping from 1930s Great Depression

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The Great Depression happened many years ago and people can only relive the memories of it through pictures. But, as the severe worldwide economic depression took place in the 1930s, the photographs stored at the Farm Security Administration are mere black-and-white, worn out, and as old as time.

Fortunately, some of the old snaps we’re published by Taschen in July for the world to see by Peter Walter in his new book, New Deal Photography: USA 1935-1943. These rarely seen snaps were shot and preserved using Kodachrome color film.

Natchitoches, Louisiana, July 1940

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There were over 40 photographers who participated in the FSA documentary photography program, although there are only a small number of shots made with Kodachrome.

San Augustine County, Texas, October 1943

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Source: John Vachon

Kodachrome pioneered in 1935, but in spite of being improved for a lot of years, it remained to be hard to use and expensive. Also, Walters explained that at that time, “there was a reservation regarding color photography” by the artistic and documentary image-creators so, the colored photos were scarce.

Chicago and Northwestern Railroad, Chicago, December 1942

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Source: Jack Delano
Pie Town, New Mexico, October 1940

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Source: Russell Lee

“Walker Evans has characterized color photography as ‘garish’ and ‘vulgar,’ although he took color photos as early as 1946. Color photography was not considered an art medium, but a medium of advertising and commerce,” Walther told Slate.

Lincoln, Nebraska, 1942

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Source: John Vachon

The FSA was integrated into the Office of War Information in 1942 and the documentary program lasted until 1944. There were almost 180,000 images from the collections that have been moved to the Library of Congress, these included the 1,600 colored photographs that haven’t been seen by the public until 2004.

White Plains, Greene County, Georgia, June 1941

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Southington, Connecticut, May 1942

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Source: Fenno Jacobs

“Like the widely known black-and-white images, the color images shown here focus on rural life and labor, but their hues undoubtedly subvert our expectations and bring the era a little bit closer to home,” Walther said.

N Street at Union Street S.W., Washington, D.C., 1941

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Chicago and Northwestern Railroad, Clinton, Iowa, April 1943

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Source: Jack Delano

“The people in the photos could be our own grandparents. You can see the color of the clothes they wear. All of this is important information about daily life at the time,” he said.

Vermont State Fair, Rutland, Vermont, September 1941

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Source: Jack Delano

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