I’ve always been a sucker for old photographs and re-creations of photos within my own life – I don’t know where this comes from, as nobody in my family does anything like this for a living, but it’s made me an archivist. I can see myself enjoying ancient JPEGs in the year 2063.
A friend forwarded me the Bound for Glory online exhibit at the Library of Congress, and it is pretty amazing: color photographs commissioned by the Farm Security Administration from 1939-1942. See what I mean:
I love this Arthur Rothstein pic from 1942 because the girl at left is exactly the same age as my mom (turned 74 yesterday!) and yet no color pictures exist of my mom until well into her late twenties. There is a sunset of vision that usually occurs when we delve past 1955 or so: everything is black and white, and thus hard to relate to our own lives. But look at this picture from 1939:
The negative has gone a little red, but that’s people dancing, with their actual face color, and sweat, and you’re there. As for bigger canvases, I like the thunderstorm in this one…
…because in other B&W pics, it would look like a menacing metaphor for the American Dream gone sour, but here it is obviously that slick hot moment before a downpour. Of course, this everyday downpour happened in 1940, sixty-five years ago.
Images of the Great Depression are always in gray, but here’s a school recital in 1940, where if you look closely, half the kids don’t have shoes:
And this one, where the girl on the left looks like she’s dressed for a musical set in 1939, but no, she’s actually in 1939:
Finally, here’s a storefront by John Vachon taken in 1942. Every single product for sale can be bought in 2005. Corporations are evil, sure, but they do give us a nice pervading feeling of Omnitopia that stretches back to the casual glances of our grandfathers.