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Picturing a Nation: 01/08/23

Picturing a Nation

Picturing a Nation by Martin W. Sandler (2021) is a coffee table book that highlights the photographic work of the FSA hired photographers during the Depression. The blurb promises to be "full color" but primarily isn't.

In 1935, color photography was still cutting edge, expensive and outside the bounds of most photographers, even professionals. So calling this book "full colors" discounts the fact that most of the of the photos taken to record the events of the Great Depression were taken in black and white.

This book is divided up into regions, regions that mimic the way the actual FSA project was divvied up. Each chapter then presents things thematically, jumping from photographer to photographer as the subject / theme demands.

There's also an included history, both of the events depicted as well as the careers of the photographer's included. Neither, though, is very extensive. This is really more of a sample plate of photographs rather than a comprehensive look at the FSA archive or how well it accomplished (or not) it's stated goal.

The book also has quotes from the photographers on their works. These are interesting but also rather fluffy. Without a more solid foundation behind the quotes, the entire book reads like inspiration porn. It's still interesting and would still be a good introduction for readers new the FSA project or the Great Depression.

Four stars

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