I absolutely love this collection of photos, taken by the Farm Security Administration and Office of War Information between 1939 and 1943. The shots taken prior to 1941, especially, are incredibly jarring—familiar images of poverty stricken farm families straight from your high school history textbook, suddenly rendered "real" and emotionally resonant by the addition of color film.
I'm very fond of the shot posted above, partially because it's just a great portrait, but also because I recognize that dress and that apron. My Great-Grandma, Rosella Duncan, owned strikingly similar outfits and was still wearing them when I was a teenager in the 1990s. It's the sort of recognizable, relatable detail that gets lost if you were to look at the same image in black and white.
Other particularly striking shots in the series:
- >#6: which shows a small-town newspaper's early attempt at real-time headlines
- >#17: where you see the family pictured above eating dinner and can get a good look at their food
- >#43: a shot of a woman and her son outside a grocery store that could easily be (without any real alterations) a modern big city bodega
- >#66: a real-life Rosie the Riveter who is rocking some fabulous, bright-red nails
Denver Post Photo Blogs: Captured: American in Color 1939-1943
Maggie Koerth-Baker is the science editor at BoingBoing.net. She writes a monthly column for The New York Times Magazine and is the author of Before the Lights Go Out, a book about electricity, infrastructure, and the future of energy. You can find Maggie on Twitter and Facebook.