WPA Color, 1939-1943


The first photograph in this WPA (Works Progressive Administration) series is a time machine, shooting me back 70 years. We did a lot of “visiting” between families in the mountains of south-western Virginia in the late 1930s, 40s and 50s. It was a social event, entertainment, a cheap vacation. But at those gatherings it always seemed there were too many kids and too few beds. So I spent my share of time taking a quick nap after being played-out, sprawled out like the group in this image. Or, with the addition of a thin blanket, down for the night with lots of close company. Being somewhat shy, perhaps like the wide-eyed girl in the photograph, I was usually the last one to go to sleep and the first to wake up. But always, whomever we were visiting, my family was made to feel welcome. And when the time came to go home, our host’s warm sendoff usually went something like:  “You’ll come back real soon.”

(Click images to enlarge.)










A collection of photographs like the ones above, on a wide range of subjects, are in the archives of FSA/OWI (Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information). These rich color images, taken within three years of the invention of Kodachrome, serve to inspire as much as to document. To see more of them on this site, type “WPA color” into the small search window in the sidebar on the right of this page. For the complete collection, visit the WPA site by tapping the link in the sidebar box marked “Photography.”

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