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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

On the Road: 1938

On the Road: 1938

June 1938. Outskirts of El Paso, Texas. "Young Negro wife cooking breakfast. 'Do you suppose I'd be out on the highway cooking my steak if I had it good at home?' Occupations: hotel maid, cook, laundress." Medium-format nitrate negative by Dorothea Lange for the Farm Security Administration. View full size.

 

As if nothing changes...

The background is not too far from current outskirts of El Paso as it sits today. I was wondering when a picture from my hometown would pop up one day. Poignant image. Thanks for sharing as always!

How not good?

I wonder what makes it so bad at home. Is there just not a home? Because you'd think that if there were just financial problems at home, she could cook like this just as well there. Hopefully there wasn't something else bad waiting for her there.

OK, now I'm reading more into photos and captions than I should and annoying myself. Either way, this caption really makes this photo.

On the Road

What I noticed most about this particular photo, as compared to the other Depression-era photos, is that there is not the direct gaze at the camera. This woman is busy doing something for herself. Not passively sitting and enduring, but doing what must be done. Hotel maid, cook, laundress she is described. All are grueling, thankless jobs. She must have been a woman of great endurance and determination. I'm more inspired by this photo and it's caption than I have been by any other thus far.

Striking

I imagine it was hot, even in the morning. Yet this woman appears to be wearing a clean and well-pressed dress. Her shoes intrigue me. I don't think I've seen anything like them before. I wonder what became of her?

Beyond Here Lies Nothing

It seems passing strange to me that, while many Shorpyites have been moved to give their two cents worth on other, recent Great Depression pictures-analyzing and projecting their emotions on the set of the nursing mother's jaw or the grin of the dirty-faced boy, no one has has had a word for this determined, realistic woman. The rocky foreground, the barren wasteland and the almost infinitely distant horizon make her simple act of preparing food seem quite heroic. Perhaps her position in society better prepared her for the Depression, giving her a capacity for survival and not encumbering her with a lot of easily broken dreams.

 
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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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