FSA Photography and the 1930s

Tuesday, January 15, 2013
7:00 pm - 8:30 pm (EST) Enter Classroom Enter Forum


Sara Blair
Professor of English, University of Michigan

About the Seminar

The Farm Security Administration (FSA) was a New Deal agency founded to combat rural poverty. While it spent millions of dollars between 1935 and 1946 to improve the lives of poor farmers, it is remembered today for its documentary photography program. We have all seen FSA photographs, even though we may not have realized we were looking at FSA photos. They have assumed iconic status and have come to define the look of the Great Depression. What can they teach about America in the 1930s? What can they tell us about the truth of documentary photography? How can we read them as images? How can we use them with students?

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Assigned Readings

  1. Images (Required)
  2. “The FSA Collection of Photographs,” in Roy Emerson Stryker and Nancy Wood, In This Proud Land: America 1935-1943 as Seen in the FSA Photographs.
  3. “Reading Photographs”, by Melissa Thibault and David Walbert, Learn NC
  4. “Basic Strategies in Reading Photographs", Nuova & Museum of Photographic Art, San Diego
  5. Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information archive, Library of Congress
  6. Documentary Expression and Thirties America, William Stott (excerpt)
  7. Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, James Agee and Walker Evans (excerpt)
  8. 12 Million Black Voices, Richard Wright and Edwin Rosskam (excerpt)