Thoughts on Life, Art, Photography, Technology, Teaching and Travel…..

Full Color Depression – Center for Documentary Studies

I got to visit the Center for Documentary Studies yesterday after attending a Distance Learning workshop in Durham NC.  I am always impressed with the photography exhibitions they have on display at the center and whenever I am in the Durham area I always make it a point to check out their shows.

I was not disappointed to say the least. The large color prints on display were apparently the first Kodachromes taken by the famous FSA photographers during the Great Depression. The color in these photographs are rich, saturated and vibrant. It seems to take some of the edge off the depression era subject matter.

I really enjoyed looking at the large prints that document for example  old country stores with rusty signs displaying advertisements for Nehi Root Beer, Coca Cola and Top Cigarette papers.

There are also starker photographs of empty rooms with weathered paint peeled walls followed by an image of bright eyed children dressed in rumpled, dirty clothes.  Many of these FSA color photographs have a less dramatic visual impact I believe due to the element of color.

Something we don’t normally associate with the stark, brutally direct black and white images by Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans.

My favorites are the direct flash lit portraits of the coal miners. Their dirty faces are the only focal point emanating from the inky black darkness of the mines.

Visiting this unique and historic exhibition is like taking a step back in time. The deep red and bright yellow colors are amazing and hold up well after being scanned, restored and printed large for this display.

Full Color Depression
First Kodachromes from America’s Heartland
Kreps Gallery
January 23–July 23, 2012

A reception will be held Thursday, April 19, from 6–9 p.m., with a talk by Bruce Jackson at 7 p.m.

There will be a public auction of the photographs on June 21.

Excerpt from web site.

“The photographs taken by the Library of Congress’s Farm Security Administration (FSA) team—composed of Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, Ben Shahn, Russell Lee, and others, under the leadership of Roy Emerson Stryker—include some of the most recognizable images of rural and small-town America during the Great Depression. Beginning in 1935, the team captured at least 175,000 black-and-white images of cities, towns, and the countryside throughout America’s heartland. Some of the photographers also captured lesser-known color images using a film called Kodachrome. No one knows exactly how many frames they shot for the FSA in color, but only 1,615 survive. Until recently, most of these images had not been seen since they were initially processed by Kodak’s lab in Rochester well over half a century ago.”


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