vintage photos by jack delano at the library of congress

Delano, Jack,, 1914-, photographer.  Library of Congress

Malaria poster in small hotel, Puerto Rico. Dec 1942

I came across Jack Delano’s photos while browsing The Library of Congress’ 19302-40s in Color set. Delano was a photographer, composer and filmmaker who worked for the Farm Security Administration until 1943. He started work for them after receiving sponsorship from the Works Progress Administration Federal Arts Program to document bootleg miners taking coal from Pennsylvania mines. He sent the resulting photos to Roy Stryker, who was the head of the Farm Security Administration (FSA) at the time and a fellow photographer, who then hired him as a photographer specifically for the FSA.

Christiansted, St. Croix, Virgin Islands.  Dec 1941

Christiansted, St. Croix, Virgin Islands. Dec 1941

The FSA’s thrust was to bring awareness to and combat rural American poverty and institute rural rehabilitation. They are now most known for their photographs portraying American poverty. Stryker’s slogan was “Introducing Americans to America.” The FSA photographers, which included Gordon Parks, ventured into American heartland, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands and documented conditions of the rural poor.

The resulting photographs are captivating.

View down the main street from the Grand Hotel, Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas Island, Virgin Islands.  Dec 1941

View down the main street from the Grand Hotel, Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas Island, Virgin Islands. Dec 1941

The post office in Charlotte Amalie is directly to the left of the lawn you see in the left side of this photograph. The buildings pictured are still standing, and the only big difference is the introduction of a traffic light at the intersection.

Delano moved to Puerto Rico when his assignment ended in 1943 and died there in 1997.

What if there was an FSA of today that documented the challenges of urban living? Is there? Should there be? Do we need to adopt their “Introducing Americans to America” slogan?

Sugar cane workers resting at the noon hour, Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico.  Dec 1941

Sugar cane workers resting at the noon hour, Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico. Dec 1941

Chicago and Northwestern railroad locomotive shops, Chicago, Ill.

Chicago and Northwestern railroad locomotive shops, Chicago, Ill. Dec 1942

On the ferris wheel at the Vermont state fair, Rutland.  Sept 1941

On the ferris wheel at the Vermont state fair, Rutland. Sept 1941

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One response to “vintage photos by jack delano at the library of congress

  1. What do you consider to be urban living?

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