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About the Photos

Most of the photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs, 20 to 200 megabytes in size) from the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) Many were digitized by LOC contractors using a Sinar studio back. They are adjusted by your webmaster for contrast and color in Photoshop before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here.

 
 
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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • CARNIVAL OF THE ARTS, 1937

Trunk Show: 1936

Trunk Show: 1936

Feb. 1936. "Drought refugees in California." Dust Bowl migrants photographed by Dorothea Lange for the Farm Security Administration. View full size.

 

Depression years

I've been in my own depression years both emotionally and financially so I know the look on those faces. My heart goes out to them and I hope they found a way out eventually as I did. Times like that are hard on a man but more so on a women who has the natural desire to have a home and keep it warm and cozy for her family. Living in dirt is hard and uncomfortable in a lot of ways. Constantly traveling to find work is discouraging and maybe a place to put down roots again would be a deep longing for them. On the other side of the story, my mother lived through the great depression but it didn't leave much of an impression on her. Not everyone was affected with dirt and poverty even though she lived through some serious dust storms. My dad's experience was a bit different. He was a farm boy and told me they lived off the land, my grandfather lucky to have two nickles to rub together for 9 children and a wife. My grandmother had small pox over her entire body while she was delivering her 10th child. I can't even begin to imagine what life was like back then nor do I try to.

Master of Composition

Whenever I look at the examples of the FSA photographers that appear here on Shorpy, I am always struck by Dorothea Lange's mastery of composition. Her photographs draw the eye in immediately, and deliver an emotional response in the viewer that all of today's digital magic cannot reproduce. I certainly don't mean to be dismissive of the other 10 FSA photographers. I find Jack Delano's railroad photos to be awe inspiring at times. And Russel Lee and John Vachon have created memorable images as well. But when it came to photographing people, Lange seemed to have an eye for composition and exposure that was above the others.

Depressing Depression

From what I can tell, the baby is clinging to her mother who appears to have another one on the way. The Grandmother and the younger sister don't seem to be enjoying themselves either. If they stayed in California, their lives probably improved.

Brave people

Yeah, they look down, but they don't look out. Dorothea Lange had a genius for finding the heart and soul of Depression America.

 
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Shorpy.com | History in HD is a vintage photo blog featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1950s. The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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