Technology

Photogrammar: Photo Archive of the US 1935-1945

A Yale University Project digitized and systemized a photo archive from the Great Depression period and WWII.

A team of researchers from Yale University developed web-based platform Photogrammar, a site that would offer new ways of organizing, searching, and visualizing the archive of over 170,000 photographs produced by the Farm Security Administration and Office of War Information from 1935 to 1943. The users can search images by location, photographer, and other parameters.

 

The history behind

One of the several points of the program titled “New Deal”, which had been implemented in 1933 by the US President Roosevelt as a way out of the economy crisis, suggested relocation of the poorest layers within the farming community to more fertile lands, and to offer them low interest credits. The above initiative didn’t find much support among people and therefore had a very slim chance to be brought to life.
{
“img”: “/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/archive_01.jpg”,
“alt”: “Photo by Arthur Rothstein. The family of a migratory fruit worker from Tennessee now camped in a field near the packinghouse at Winter Haven, Florida. 1937.”,
“text”: “Photo by Arthur Rothstein. The family of a migratory fruit worker from Tennessee now camped in a field near the packinghouse at Winter Haven, Florida. 1937.”
},
{
“img”: “/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/archive_20.jpg”,
“alt”: “Photo by Russell Lee. Wrecking foundation of old building in Forgan, Oklahoma, which is a ghost dust town. 1939.”,
“text”: “Photo by Russell Lee. Wrecking foundation of old building in Forgan, Oklahoma, which is a ghost dust town. 1939.”
},
{
“img”: “/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/archive_03.jpg”,
“alt”: “Photo by Russell Lee. Mother and child in another bedroom of the Nissen shack near Dickens, Iowa. 1936.”,
“text”: “Photo by Russell Lee. Mother and child in another bedroom of the Nissen shack near Dickens, Iowa. 1936.”
},
{
“img”: “/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/archive_04.jpg”,
“alt”: “Photo by Dorothea Lange. Child living in Oklahoma City shacktown. 1936.”,
“text”: “Photo by Dorothea Lange. Child living in Oklahoma City shacktown. 1936.”
},
{
“img”: “/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/archive_05.jpg”,
“alt”: “Photo by Jack Delano.Soldiers of a cavalry machine gun platoon going over an obstacle during a field problem. 1942, Fort Riley, Kansas.”,
“text”: “Photo by Jack Delano.Soldiers of a cavalry machine gun platoon going over an obstacle during a field problem. 1942, Fort Riley, Kansas.”
},
{
“img”: “/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/archive_06.jpg”,
“alt”: “Unknown photographer. Cotton stockings. Lana Turner inspecting the ankle-flattering bracelet design embroidered on dressy, fine point lisle cotton mesh hose. California, 1941 год.”,
“text”: “Unknown photographer. Cotton stockings. Lana Turner inspecting the ankle-flattering bracelet design embroidered on dressy, fine point lisle cotton mesh hose. California, 1941 год.”
},
{
“img”: “/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/archive_07.jpg”,
“alt”: “Photo by Russell Lee. Activity in pool and barroom, Pilottown, Louisiana. 1938.”,
“text”: “Photo by Russell Lee. Activity in pool and barroom, Pilottown, Louisiana. 1938.”
},
{
“img”: “/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/archive_08.jpg”,
“alt”: “Photo by Marion Post Wolcott. Homesteaders’ children playing in pile of sand, Tygart Valley, West Virginia. 1938.”,
“text”: “Photo by Marion Post Wolcott. Homesteaders’ children playing in pile of sand, Tygart Valley, West Virginia. 1938.”
},
{
“img”: “/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/archive_09.jpg”,
“alt”: “Photo by Russell Lee. Mrs. Gernie Marshall, near Ringgold, Iowa. 1937.”,
“text”: “Photo by Russell Lee. Mrs. Gernie Marshall, near Ringgold, Iowa. 1937.”
}

Roosevelt and his administration understood the importance of changing public opinion to convince Americans that such measures were indeed necessary, so they founded a special department that hired photographers to chronicle life in the United States as a way to build support for government programs. The photos taken by Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans, and Arthur Rothstein became symbols of America during the Great Depression and WWII, served as basis for establishing the idiosyncratic visual culture, and captured the full span of that era in the country’s history.

 

Archive

Among 170,000 negatives about 88,000 had been printed out and stored on the shelves of the Federal Security Agency Archives. In 1942 the collection had been catalogued. Today, all prints are digitized and kept at the Library of Congress in Washington.

 

Programmer

In order to make navigating the archive easier, the Yale University research team created a web-based platform Programmer where the catalogue is presented in the form of an interactive map of the historical county and sensus data. Each district is color-coded according to the number of photos taken on its territory – the greener the hue, the higher is the number of available photos. Users will be given the tools to quickly search by photographer’s name and year of the photo – for instance, they’ll be able to set a filter to find out which states Dorothea Lange photographed at over the course of 1935-1936, and look those images up.
{
“img”: “/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/archive_10.jpg”,
“alt”: “Photo by Russell Lee. Farm wagon leaving small grocery store on Saturday afternoon, McIntosh County, Oklahoma. 1939.”,
“text”: “Photo by Russell Lee. Farm wagon leaving small grocery store on Saturday afternoon, McIntosh County, Oklahoma. 1939.”
},
{
“img”: “/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/archive_11.jpg”,
“alt”: “Photo by Ben Shahn. Levee workers, Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana. 1937.”,
“text”: “Photo by Ben Shahn. Levee workers, Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana. 1937.”
},
{
“img”: “/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/archive_12.jpg”,
“alt”: “Photo by Russell Lee. People waiting at streetcar terminal for cars, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. 1939.”,
“text”: “Photo by Russell Lee. People waiting at streetcar terminal for cars, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. 1939.”
},
{
“img”: “/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/archive_13.jpg”,
“alt”: “Photo by Russell Lee. Cow eating cabbage near Weslaco, Texas. The price of cabbage is four dollars per ton and is consequently being used as a low price cattle feed. 1939.”,
“text”: “Photo by Russell Lee. Cow eating cabbage near Weslaco, Texas. The price of cabbage is four dollars per ton and is consequently being used as a low price cattle feed. 1939.”
},
{
“img”: “/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/archive_14.jpg”,
“alt”: “Photo by Russell Lee. Migrant father and son cooking meal over campfire, Edinburg, Texas. 1939.”,
“text”: “Photo by Russell Lee. Migrant father and son cooking meal over campfire, Edinburg, Texas. 1939.”
},
{
“img”: “/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/archive_15.jpg”,
“alt”: “Photo by Ben Shahn.Strawberry picker, Hammond, Louisiana. 1935.”,
“text”: “Photo by Ben Shahn.Strawberry picker, Hammond, Louisiana. 1935.”
},
{
“img”: “/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/archive_16.jpg”,
“alt”: “Photo by Arthur Rothstein. Apolinar Rael, rehabiliation client, harvesting beans, Costilla County, Colorado. 1937.”,
“text”: “Photo by Arthur Rothstein. Apolinar Rael, rehabiliation client, harvesting beans, Costilla County, Colorado. 1937.”
},
{
“img”: “/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/archive_17.jpg”,
“alt”: “Photo by Walker Evans. Erosion near Oxford, Mississippi. 1936.”,
“text”: “Photo by Walker Evans. Erosion near Oxford, Mississippi. 1936.”
},
{
“img”: “/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/archive_18.jpg”,
“alt”: “Photo by Russell Lee. Farmers in gallery of livestock sales hall, Ames, Iowa. 1936.”,
“text”: “Photo by Russell Lee. Farmers in gallery of livestock sales hall, Ames, Iowa. 1936.”
},
{
“img”: “/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/archive_19.jpg”,
“alt”: “Photo by Edwin Rosskam. Children playing Ring Around a Rosie in one of the better neighborhoods of the Black Belt, Chicago, Illinois. 1941.”,
“text”: “Photo by Edwin Rosskam. Children playing Ring Around a Rosie in one of the better neighborhoods of the Black Belt, Chicago, Illinois. 1941.”
}

Besides the county-by-county map, the site offers another visualization called Treemap. This feature presents a catalogue composed of the differently sized and colored blocks (depending on the number of photographs), and is departmentalized by subject: buildings, living conditions, transportation, religion.

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