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Comments Posted 02.03.13 | PERMALINK | PRINT

John Foster

Accidental Mysteries, 02.03.13


From 1935 to 1944, the Farm Security Administration (FSA), decided it needed publicity images to explain to the American people the need for public programs, such as FDR’s New Deal. The FSA hired Roy Stryker, an economist from Columbia University to head the project. What he did was set up one of the most important photographic documentary projects in the history of the nation.

Stryker started by hiring photographers like Carl Mydans, Gordon Parks, Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans, Marion Post Wolcott, Arthur Rothstein, Ben Shahn, John Vachon, Russell Lee, John Collier, Jr., and Jack Delano. In what today seems like the greatest gig in photography, these determined photographers set out across the country with their cameras in hand.

These images and their negatives are part of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Online Catalog (PPOC) and free to reproduce digitally. Prints can be ordered of any image for a nominal fee. While most of us have seen or know of many of the most famous, seminal images of that period, I selected for today’s post images of signs from across America. All of the images you see today are from the low-res digital images available on their site.

Signs of Ourselves
Photo by Carl Mydans, September 1936. Manchester, NH.

Signs of Ourselves
Photo by Russell Lee, September 1941. Yakima, WA

Signs of Ourselves
Photo by Marion Post Wolcott, May 1939. Georgia.

Signs of Ourselves
Photo by Marion Post Wolcott, May 1939. Georgia.

Signs of Ourselves
Photo by Arthur Rothstein, Summer 1939. Fairfield, MT.

Signs of Ourselves
Photo by John Vachon, September 1939. Minneapolis, MN.

Signs of Ourselves
Photo by Marion Post Wolcott, November 1939. Zebulon, NC.

Signs of Ourselves
Photo by Ben Shahn, August 1938. Columbus, OH.

Signs of Ourselves
Photo by Jack Delano, June 1941. Greensboro, GA.

Signs of Ourselves
Photo by Jack Delano, June 1941. Greensboro, GA.

Signs of Ourselves
Photo by Marion Post Wolcott, April 1939. Greene County, GA.

Signs of Ourselves
Photo by Jack Delano, May 1941. Eutaw, AL.

Signs of Ourselves
Photo by Russell Lee, July 1939. Muskogee, OK.

Signs of Ourselves
Photo by Marion Post Wolcott, December 1940. Near Augusta, GA. (The sign was painted red, white and blue.)

Signs of Ourselves
Photo by Ben Shahn, August 1938. Central Ohio.

Signs of Ourselves
Photo by Jack Delano, January 1940. Rochester, PA.

Signs of Ourselves
Photo by John Vachon, September 1939. Minneapolis, MN.

Signs of Ourselves
Photo by Ben Shahn, Summer 1938. Central Ohio.

Signs of Ourselves
Photo by Marion Post Wolcott, December 1940. Near Augusta, GA.

Signs of Ourselves
Photo by Ben Shahn, Summer 1938. Central Ohio.

Signs of Ourselves
Photo by Ben Shahn, Summer 1938. Central Ohio.

Signs of Ourselves
Photo by Ben Shahn, Summer 1938. Central Ohio.

Signs of Ourselves
Photo by Ben Shahn, Summer 1938. Central Ohio.

Signs of Ourselves
Photo by Russell Lee, December 1940. San Diego, CA.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

John Foster and his wife, Teenuh, have been longtime collectors of self-taught art and vernacular photography. Their collection of anonymous, found snapshots has toured the country for five years and has been featured in Harper’s, Newsweek Online and others.
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