Depression-Era Photography from the WPA and FSA

Six photographers working in the 1930s and 40s within several New Deal agencies show the hardship of the Depression, providing visual testimony to this most difficult period in America's history.

Fort Benning: Tank Forces (1942) by Alfred PalmerBoca Raton Museum of Art

During WWII, Alfred Palmer was appointed to be the head photographer for the OWI. Here, he shoots a Medium (M-3) tank and trainee of the armored forces completing the course at Ft. Benning, GA.

Conversion: Cash Registers to Gun Magazines (1942) by Alfred PalmerBoca Raton Museum of Art

At home, the Office of War Information (OWI) launched advertising campaigns to sell rationing, conservation, and increased war production to the American people.

Deland Pool: Aircraft Construction Class (1930s-1940s) by Howard R. HollemBoca Raton Museum of Art

Howard R. Hollem was an FSA/OWI staff photographer who was instrumental in promoting "Rosie the Riveter" by taking many iconic images of women laboring at their jobs.

Flint River Farms School, near Montezuma, Georgia (1939) by Marion Post WolcottBoca Raton Museum of Art

Trained as a teacher and working in a small town in Massachusetts, Wolcott saw the reality of the Depression. Her photographs often explored the political aspects of poverty and deprivation.

School Nurse, Kindergarten Children, Nursery School at Arthurdale Project, West Virginia (1935) by Elmer JohnsonBoca Raton Museum of Art

The citizens of Arthurdale were wards of the state. The Division of Subsistence Homesteads brought the rural poor to Arthurdale, out of squalor, and supplied them with well-appointed homes, food, and healthcare.

"Promote the General Welfare" Bas Relief on Greenbelt School (about 1936-1939) by Arthur RothsteinBoca Raton Museum of Art

Sent to Greenbelt, MD, Arthur Rothstein was one of the first photographers to work for the Farm Security Administration (FSA) These shots are of the friezes on Greenbelt Elementary School.

Seen here, is one of the figurative vignettes in bas-relief designed by another Works Progress Administration (WPA) artist, sculptor Lenore Thomas (1909-88).

"Establish Justice" Bas Relief on Greenbelt School (about 1936-1938) by Arthur RothsteinBoca Raton Museum of Art

Taken directly from the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States of America, these vignettes are meant to instill strength and conviction in the viewer.

American Family at Breakfast (about 1935) by W. Grancel FitzBoca Raton Museum of Art

Fitz was an American advertising photographer. This promo image of the "good" American family sets up a telling contrast between itself and the stark realities that other FSA photographers captured.

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