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Our colorful heritage
November 30, 2010 - Bill Ackerbauer
One of the fine people among the illuminati who make up my virtual social network (i.e., a Facebook friend) shared this link today, and I am pleased to pass it along for the benefit of all those fans of “Remember When?” and historical photographs in general.
The link below will take you to a collection of photos from the late ’30s and early ’40s. What makes them amazing, beyond the excellence of their composition and their documentary value, is the fact that they are — stunningly — in full color. These are images captured on Kodachrome film when it was the hottest new photographic technology, long before Paul Simon waxed nostalgic about the days when he was single.
To see the online photo gallery, click here: “Bound for Glory: America in Color, 1939-1943”
These photos are incredibly eye-opening, especially for those of us who are too young to have seen the Great Depression firsthand. As my friend joked, “You mean the Depression didn’t happen in black and white?”
The title of the collection brings to mind Woody Guthrie (author of the autobiography “Bound for Glory”), whose songs encapsulate the spirit of the Depression era in words and music just as powerfully as black-and-white photos by Dorothea Lange or Russell Lee. But these Kodachrome shots are really something, and now that I have seen them, the American landscape of my own personal historical imagination is altered. (Do things really look "worse" or "better" in black and white? Uh, yes!)
Somebody should set a slideshow of these images to the music Woody Guthrie recorded for Alan Lomax in the 1930s. That would be fitting, since the photos and those audio recordings both are property of the Library of Congress, so they "belong to you and me" as much as the heritage they help preserve.
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This one is probably my favorite of the bunch, if only because I'm partial to ladies who pick the geetar. [Click photo to enlarge] Russell Lee took this photo at a square dance in McIntosh County, Oklahoma, in either 1939 or 1940. The image is property of the Library of Congress.