Color Photographs Shed a Different Light on the Great Depression

Walker Evans’ images of Great Depression-era American families are up there as some of the most captivating and telling photographs of our nation’s history (they are certainly some of my favorite images ever taken). But one criticism that could be made of Mr. Evans’ photography is that his use of black and white film makes the already “depressing” era, even more dismal. Now I know most people at this point would say, “Well that is because color film hadn’t been invented in the late 1930’s when W

_ Residents getting ready to serve the barbeque dinner at a local fair held in Pie Town, New Mexico, October 1940. Reproduction from a color slide. Photograph by Russell Lee. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress._

Walker Evans’ images of Great Depression-era American families are up there as some of the most captivating and telling photographs of our nation’s history (they are certainly some of my favorite images ever taken). But one criticism that could be made of Mr. Evans’ photography is that his use of black and white film makes the already “depressing” era, even more dismal. Now I know most people at this point would say, “Well that is because color film hadn’t been invented in the late 1930’s when Walker was shooting,” but that assumption is incorrect.

The folks over at EyeCurious.com recently discovered that a massive archive of color images taken during the same depression-era Walker so famously documented, is available for anyone to see at the Library of Congress Flickr page.

The photos show a simple yet vibrant America. Shot by various photographers working for the Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information, the images give color to a period previously thought by most people to be colorless.

The larger question that these images raise is one of how to best document our nation's history. What do you think, does color photography give a more realistic and accurate view of our history or is black and white photography appropriate in certain instances?  Take a look at the Library of Congress page and share your thoughts.

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