valentine, in color

by Megan Abbott

In honor of the day, one of my favorite pictures from one of the most revelatory collections I’ve seen in years. Courtesy of the Library of Congress, which I found through a piece in last summer’s Denver Post.

Couples at square dance. McIntosh County, Oklahoma, 1939 or 1940, Reproduction from color slide. Photo by Russell Lee. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Isn’t this a stunner? Don’t a 100 stories just flood from it?

In case you haven’t seen them, these images were taken by photographers of the Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information. Apparently, they are some of the only color photos documenting the impact of the Depression on rural and small town America.

It’s striking how little I/we imagine that time and place in color. Somehow the photos look so present, so vivid, so now. You can touch them. In this one, you can feel every bit of hectic energy in that room, church, school, townhall. You feel like you could reach out and touch their warm skin.

5 Comments to “valentine, in color”

  1. Oh my God, it’s like a film still, you couldn’t possibly stage that. Do I see…are those TWINS? How beautiful.

  2. That’s something I think about whenever I see old photography. There is a great display at the Missoula airport of photographs from a guy (his name escapes me) who took a lot of photos around Montana back in the 30s, and they are fantastic. I always think how in these images the sun was just as bright, the colors as vivid, as what an image from the fanciest digital camera of today could recreate . . . yet that is all left for the imagination. Hard to explain, really, but I like to turn my imagination loose on them.

  3. Isn’t it something? Are they twins/brothers? They look like that, but also like something else….or maybe both?

  4. That series of pictures is just unbelievably good. You could write a novel about every photograph – each one is packed with emotive detail and atmosphere. Thanks for the tip.

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