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depression-era-archives-4 News & Insight

New Archive Of Photographs From Depression Era, Now Easily Searchable

By Michelle Bird on September 4th 2014


Photo: Dorothea Lange

This is pretty exciting news as I’ve written about other archives on the Internet before; there’s an extensive amount of archives out there adding up to millions of photographs you can look through from way back when. I love sorting through vintage pictures, whether it be for inspiration, or curiosity on how others before me lived.

This particular archives revolves around the Library of Congress, which amongst its collections, is the one from the Great Depression, that houses 175,000 portraits of America between the years 1935 and 1945, taken by photographers of the government’s Farm Security Administration. The LOC has done a great job at digitizing all the negatives, tagging the records with all the data, such as who the photographer was and the location it was taken.


Los Angeles, California, 1942. The evacuation of the Japanese-Americans from West Coast areas under U.S. Army war emergency order. Photo: Russell Lee

Scrolling through thousands of images seems like a daunting task. You could probably spend days looking at inspiring photographs, and you get addicted to that “next” button with no end, but we have to go back to taking pictures ourselves and editing…you know, that thing we call work. Well, things just got easier thanks to Yale University and their Photogrammer program, who will save you some time, and direct you to what you’re looking for.

[REWIND: Stunning Vintage Photos Of Wartime Women At Work]

Photogrammer organizes all of the pictures from the Great Depression archive in a map, and within that map, the photos are either organized by county, or there’s another section that shows where the picture was taken and by which photographer. There’s also an interactive section where you can sort through the photographs by theme, for example: “medicine and health,” “war,” or “transportation.”


Tenant farmer. Chatham County, North Carolina, 1939. Photo: Dorothea Lange


Widtsoe, Utah church, 1936. Photo: Dorothea Lange


Production of A-20 attack bombers. Women workers at the Long Beach, California plant of Douglas Aviation Company groom lines of transparent noses for deadly A-20 attack bombers, 1942. Photo: Alfred T. Palmer

I spent some time on it last night, and it’s definitely worth checking out. It’s quite easy to navigate with a sleek clean design, and has tons of stunning captures from photographers like: Dorothea Lange, Russell Lee, Gordon Parks, Jack Delano and others. What I like most about this program is that it brings all of these images and their stories back to life.


Turpentine worker. DuPont, Georgia, 1937. Photo: Dorothea Lange


This man was born a slave in Greene County, Georgia, 1937. Photo: Dorothea Lange


This lieutenant of the Marine Corps, studying glider piloting at Page Field, Parris Island, South Carolina, 1942. Photo: Alfred Palmer


He’s one of Uncle Sam’s student paratroopers at Fort Benning, Georgia, 1942. Photo: Alfred Palmer

CREDIT: Images, Courtesy of Library of Congress

[via] City Lab

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Michelle Bird is a Southern California based freelance photographer and writer, with a strong focus on music, editorial and portrait photography. She is the founder and creative force behind the music+culture online blog Black Vinyl Magazine, and can often be found in the photo-pit shooting the latest concerts in town. She has a strong passion for art, exploring, vintage finds and most of all animals. Connect with her through Email,
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Q&A Discussions

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  1. Hannes Nitzsche

    Great images! Thanks for the article!

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  2. Peter Nord

    There’s an interesting video about Dorothea Lange on PBS.

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  3. Mark Iuzzolino

    Loving these historic photos.

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