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Bound for Glory: America in Color 1939-43 [Hardcover]

Paul Hendrickson
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

May 4 2004
The photographs of the Farm Security Administration (FSA), which recorded American life in the late 1930s and early 1940s, remain among the most moving and famous documentary images from the first half of the 20th century. Yet few people know that, along with thousands and thousands of black-and-white photographs, the FSA photographers also took color pictures. Here, for the first time, is a selection of the best of the FSA color photographs-introduced by National Book Award finalist Paul Hendrickson and assembled to create a vivid portrait of America as it emerged from the Great Depression to fight World War II.

Covering countryside and city, farm and factory, work and play, the images in this book open a window onto our national experience from 1939 to 1943, revealing a world that we have always seen in our mind's eye exclusively in black and white. Never before has there been a book that paints this picture in full color.

Published in association with the Library of Congress.


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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Taken from 1939 to 1943 under the auspices of the Farm Security Administration and the Office of War Information, these 175 "lost" photos feature shots by Russell Lee, Andreas Feininger and Marion Post Wolcott, using the then-revolutionary technology of Kodachrome film. Color photographs taken before 1939 have largely deteriorated, so these surviving photos are later than the most familiar b&w Depression-era shots. This 11¾"×8½" volume thus "colorizes" one's normally black-and-white impressions of a very vibrant time, as Hendrickson (Sons of Mississippi) notes in his introduction. The logic behind the arrangement of the photos, which at first seems largely random, as it follows neither photographer, location nor chronology, becomes clear by the end of the book: the U.S.'s industrial rise. Images of urban lethargy and farmhands picking cotton under hot blue skies (the unbearable conditions of cotton-picking somehow seem more apparent in color) gradually give way to images of mobility, mechanization and a changing economy. Arnold T. Palmer's gleaming portraits of Rosie the riveter–like aircraft workers follow Jack Delano's earthier photos of male railroad workers, their sweaty and intent faces caked with soot. Tellingly, the book ends with photos of bombers flying over California.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

More barely known, invaluable early-1940s photos come to complement Angelo Spinelli and Lewis Carlson's Life behind Barbed Wire [BKL Mr 15 03] and Evan Bachner's At Ease [BKL My 15 03]. But whereas those books reveal sparsely documented aspects of World War II servicemen's lives, this one shows mostly civilians in examples of the color work done for the Farm Service Administration (FSA) and its successor, the Office of War Information. FSA, in particular, is a byword for documentary photographic excellence because of the agency's documentation of the Depression by photographers famously including Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans. But those pictures are black and white, and many may not even know that color film was exposed for the FSA. So these images by FSA stalwarts Marion Post Wolcott, John Vachon, Jack Delano, Russell Lee, and others constitute manna from the archives. Affectionately and analytically introduced by journalist Paul Hendrickson, they show farm people and rural life in far-flung corners of the U.S., then urban workers and workplaces, then wartime work and workers. Masterly and powerful as their monochrome siblings, they are as complexly delightful, not least because they boost the documentary reputation of the most popular painter of their time, Norman Rockwell; the faces in the photos look just like those in his paintings. Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars The color of memory June 13 2004
Format:Hardcover
In Paul Hendrickson's introduction to this wonderful book he suggests that many people (including himself) sort of believe the Great Depression existed only in black and white. I'll agree with him because having collected a few dozen books devoted to FSA photos it is strange to see color photos taken by the same small group of brilliant photographers who took thousands of monochrome images that defined the Nation's view of the Depression. He also mentions the important observation that most color photos used in print media at the time were for decorative or flamboyant editorial use, in other words color for colors sake and of course color was used extensively for advertising.
With 175 photos the book starts with an FSA view of the countryside and then merges into urban, city and railroads shots and finally images of war production, mostly dealing with aircraft. I don't think the last photos have the emotional punch of the earlier FSA work, they seem more photos of record. Of the FSA section of the book (with sixty or so photos) there are eighteen beautiful shots by Russell Lee taken in Pie Town, New Mexico, he had already taken many photos here, which are now considered some of his greatest work.
The color film used for all the work in the book was the newly developed Kodachrome and perhaps this explains why many photos have an overdeveloped darkness but when mixed with the greens and browns of the countryside, city and factory it gives all these pictures an authentic texture.
I think this is a wonderful book of photos and the addition of color, especially to the FSA ones, reveals an intriguing new look and feel to a black and white vision of the past.
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Format:Hardcover
The Farm Security Administration and the Office of War Information photographically recorded American life in the late 1930s and early 1940s. The very best of the photographic images taken in full color have been selected for presentation to a new generation of Americans in Bound For Glory: America In Color 1939-43. Featuring an informed and informative introduction by Paul Hendrickson, these photos taken from the FSA/OWI Collection in the Library of Congress document a yesteryear America that ranges from 32 states, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. Here chronicled and showcased are scenes from the the American countryside and city, farms and factories; Americans at work and at play. This coffee table book is an impresive memorial tribute to pioneering work in color photography and a welcome addition to any personal, academic, or profession photography book collection.
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5.0 out of 5 stars See Teddy the Wrestling Bear Jan. 22 2009
Format:Hardcover
The Library of Congress archives held a hidden treasure for over thirty years. The vast collection of photographs commissioned by the Farm Security Administration and the Office of War Information between 1935 and 1943 were filed away, loosely cataloged, and it was not until 1978 that a historian discovered 700 color transparencies among the 160,000 black-and-white photos. Those 700, along with the 965 images from 1942 and '43 when the OWI ran the project, are a startling legacy. Startling--because there are so few color images of the Depression years that we often overlook the vibrancy and lightheartedness of the time. As author Paul Hendrickson writes in the Foreword, these luminous photographs "...can only add to, not detract from, the black-and-white Movietone reel that's long been running in your head."

Kodachrome film was first marketed in 35mm rolls in 1936; by the time of the earliest known FSA color shots in 1939, the earlier problems with stability of the yellow dyes had been resolved. The 175 pictures in BOUND FOR GLORY: AMERICA IN COLOR 1939-43 are amazingly color-true and crisp. The majority were developed onto 2 x 2 Kodachrome slides in cardboard mountings.

The images pull you in. How to describe them?
Read more ›
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  20 reviews
40 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Eyepopping Nov. 28 2004
By Danusha V. Goska - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The average modern citizen in the West is awash in images.

This was brought home to me when I was teaching in a small village in Nepal. I was told not to use photographs or even drawings in class because Nepali villagers, who haven't seen many or even any photographs, might not know how to visually decode them. (FTR: I did use visual aids, and my students did learn to decode them.)

The average modern American is very different. We are so inundated by images that we can walk by an exquisite Ansel Adams print or a map of horror like Picasso's "Guernica" and not see or feel anything.

My American students have to be taught, not how to to decode photographs, but how to get in touch with their own response to photographs -- to learn that images of violence or sexual exploitation do have an impact, an impact they've been taught to ignore.

When a photography book, from its front cover to its last page, grabs me and doesn't let me go, when I can feel a photography book reach into my visual cortex and move around the furniture, I know that that photography book is something special.

"Bound for Glory" did just that.

E. H. Gombrich, in his book "Art and Illusion," talks about "schemata," or visual formulas that limit how artists can represent the world, and, thus, how consumers of art can view the world, in any given era.

As I gazed at "Bound for Glory's" images, I could feel my "schemata" being set in motion as if they had been wallflowers at a dance, and this book got those "schemata" up and dancing around, assuming positions they'd never assumed before.

The 175 photos span an era from the late 1930's to the early 1940's. I did not live through that era, but my parents did, and I have spent many an hour gazing at their black and white photos of that era.

Too, I am a classic movie fan, so I've spent hours watching and rewatching films like "It Happened One Night" and "The Grapes of Wrath" that depict the same world this book depicts: that of small town American life.

When I first opened this book of COLOR photographs from the 1930s and 1940s, I thought, "This is WRONG."

Now, I know that that reaction is factually incorrect. I know that people in the thirties and forties had pink, beige, and brown skin, blue or brown eyes, red dresses. But because I've been so trained by the family photos and classic films of that era to expect black and white, the color of these photographs completely messed with my head.

The people looked too real. My contact with them felt too intimate.

That effect has not, as yet, worn off. I've gone through the book several times and the rich, lovely, saturated colors still shock me. The chipped red nails of the homesteader wife. Her clashing yellow flowered apron and blue flowered dress. Her blond hair. Wow.

Color is not the only reason to appreciate this book. The photographs are well-lit and well composed. They are amazingly clear. You see strands of hair, shoe straps, bruises, facial expressions, clearly. Really, it's as if you bought a ticket on a time machine and walked into a church service, or a country fair, from decades ago.

You see that very poor Americans from that era had not yet become obese. A crowd of wonderfully dressed African American women gather outside a church; each is as slim and strong looking as an athlete. In a gaggle of white homesteader kids, not one is overweight.

You see that very poor Americans from that era put much effort into grooming. A white homesteader man wears a white shirt that is quite filthy, but he has tucked it into his pants; he wears a hat at a jaunty angle. An African American boy in overalls also wears a hat; his shirt is buttoned up properly. Someone put a great deal of care into his appearance, even though the clothes he wears are evidently old.

You see the creeping "uglification" of America in billboards and industrial sites.

You see resignation and quiet disgust on the face of one girlie-show dancer, and goofy eagerness on the face of another. You see how we permed our hair sixty years ago.

I love this book. I can't recommend it highly enough.
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The color of memory June 13 2004
By Robin Benson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
In Paul Hendrickson's introduction to this wonderful book he suggests that many people (including himself) sort of believe the Great Depression existed only in black and white. I'll agree with him because having collected a few dozen books devoted to FSA photos it is strange to see color photos taken by the same small group of brilliant photographers who took thousands of monochrome images that defined the Nation's view of the Depression. He also mentions the important observation that most color photos used in print media at the time were for decorative or flamboyant editorial use, in other words color for colors sake and of course color was used extensively for advertising.

With 175 photos the book starts with an FSA view of the countryside and then merges into urban, city and railroad shots and finally images of war production, mostly dealing with aircraft. I don't think the last photos have the emotional punch of the earlier FSA work, they seem more photos of record. Of the FSA section of the book (with sixty or so photos) there are eighteen beautiful shots by Russell Lee taken in Pie Town, New Mexico, he had already taken many photos here, which are now considered some of his greatest work.

The color film used for all the work in the book was the newly developed Kodachrome and perhaps this explains why many photos have an overdeveloped darkness but when mixed with the greens and browns of the countryside, city and factory it gives all these pictures an authentic texture.

I think this is a wonderful book of photos and the addition of color, especially to the FSA ones, reveals an intriguing new look and feel to a black and white vision of the past.

***FOR AN INSIDE LOOK click 'customer images' under the cover.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Marvelous Nov. 29 2004
By Judy Paris - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I brought this book after reading a NY times review. Finally-history that is in real color, not the typical black and white we're so use to. It makes the era seem so much more alive and real. The photos displayed are beautiful - there's such a real display of feelings and emotions. I just love this gem.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing. See. Admire. Be amazed. Aug. 1 2005
By Kevin L. Kitchens - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The book is called "Bound for Glory" and is a collection of 175+ COLOR photographs of America from 1939-1943. Many of you may be aware of the work of the new deal photographers who were dispatched to document the plight of the Depression. The majority of these pictures (and thus our own viewpoint on the period) was in black and white.

However, in the late 30s, Kodak unveiled Kodachrome film and these gifted "squinters through a box" were given a new weapon in their visionary arsenal -- color.

This book and its barely 10% of the minimal 1600 color shots in the archives is a literal eye opening experience. No Hollywood creation of the era comes close in terms of presenting to us how things really were. But to see men, women, children, animals, stores, and events through the eyes of other photographers is always fascinating... and to see this period as if we had just taken the picture is amazing.

I highly recommend you find this book to just look at -- American or otherwise -- and take in the beautiful work of these masters of our craft.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A memorial tribute to pioneering work in color photography June 8 2004
By Midwest Book Review - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The Farm Security Administration and the Office of War Information photographically recorded American life in the late 1930s and early 1940s. The very best of the photographic images taken in full color have been selected for presentation to a new generation of Americans in Bound For Glory: America In Color 1939-43. Featuring an informed and informative introduction by Paul Hendrickson, these photos taken from the FSA/OWI Collection in the Library of Congress document a yesteryear America that ranges from 32 states, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. Here chronicled and showcased are scenes from the the American countryside and city, farms and factories; Americans at work and at play. This coffee table book is an impresive memorial tribute to pioneering work in color photography and a welcome addition to any personal, academic, or profession photography book collection.
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