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Why the Feds ‘Killed’ Some of History’s Best Photos

FSA documentary photography program apparently had very strict standards.

History By

It’s commonly known that, during the Great Depression, the government played a crucial role in creating what’s often termed the golden age of American photography by paying photographers to document the country.

It’s less commonly known that the government “killed” many of the photos produced by this golden age.

The key figure seems to be Roy Stryker. He was the director of the Farm Security Administration (FSA) documentary photography program. He wanted the best possible work from his shutterbugs and he wasn’t afraid to act when he felt he hadn’t received it. Indeed, in those cases he made a point of marring negatives with a hole punch.

It seems worth asking: did Stryker’s zeal for quality control lead to destroying (or at least defacing) great photos? After all, he handled work by legends including Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans, and Arthur Rothstein. Judge for yourself with the included pictures.

Great Depression Farm Security Administration Photos Library of Congress
(Library of Congress)
Great Depression Farm Security Administration Photos Library of Congress
(Library of Congress)
Great Depression Farm Security Administration Photos Library of Congress
(Library of Congress)
Great Depression Farm Security Administration Photos Library of Congress
(Library of Congress)
Great Depression Farm Security Administration Photos Library of Congress
(Library of Congress)
Great Depression Farm Security Administration Photos Library of Congress
(Library of Congress)
Great Depression Farm Security Administration Photos Library of Congress
(Library of Congress)
Great Depression Farm Security Administration Photos Library of Congress
(Library of Congress)
Great Depression Farm Security Administration Photos Library of Congress
(Library of Congress)
Great Depression Farm Security Administration Photos Library of Congress
(Library of Congress)
Great Depression Farm Security Administration Photos Library of Congress
(Library of Congress)
Great Depression Farm Security Administration Photos Library of Congress
(Library of Congress)
Great Depression Farm Security Administration Photos Library of Congress
(Library of Congress)
Great Depression Farm Security Administration Photos Library of Congress
(Library of Congress)
Great Depression Farm Security Administration Photos Library of Congress
(Library of Congress)
Great Depression Farm Security Administration Photos Library of Congress
(Library of Congress)
Great Depression Farm Security Administration Photos Library of Congress
(Library of Congress)
Great Depression Farm Security Administration Photos Library of Congress
(Library of Congress)

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