September 11, 2008 (REVISED September 15, 2008) New Series "Fields of Vision" Features 20th-Century Photographers And Contemporary Writers
First Three Volumes Feature Nicholas Lemann on Russell Lee, Timothy Egan on Ben Shahn and Francine Prose on Marion Post Wolcott
Press Contact: Audrey Fischer (202) 707-0022
The more than 171,000 black-and-white and 1,600 color images that comprise the Farm Security Administration-Office of War Information (FSA-OWI) Collection at the Library of Congress offer a detailed portrait of life in the United States from the years of the Great Depression through World War II. Capturing people in both rural and urban regions of the country involved in the rhythms of daily life, the photographs allow viewers to connect personally with the 1930s and 1940s. The government documentary project, headed by Roy L. Stryker, employed many relatively unknown names who later became some of the 20th century’s best-known photographers.
Selected images from the works of FSA-OWI photographers Russell Lee (1903-1987), Ben Shahn (1898-1969) and Marion Post Wolcott (1910-1990) are now featured in the first of three volumes in a new Library of Congress series titled “Fields of Vision.” Edited by Amy Pastan, an independent editor formerly with the Smithsonian Institution Press, each volume in the series includes an introduction to the work of the featured FSA photographer by a leading contemporary author or writer.
In his introduction, Nicholas Lemann, dean of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, compares the photography of Russell Lee with “what Toqueville did as a social observer, or Dos Passos as a novelist, or John Gunther as a journalist.” New York Times contributing columnist Timothy Egan reminds us that while Ben Shahn documented the brutality of the Great Depression through his photography, “he was an optimist … he thought if he showed you the human being behind the coarsened shell, you would be moved, as he was, to do something.” Novelist Francine Prose writes about Marion Post Wolcott’s “brief, productive and action packed-career … that revealed “an eye for the telling marks that we humans engrave, and leave, on the earth.”
The series also presents 50 striking images by each photographer that demonstrate how their vision helped shape the collective identity of America. Reproduction numbers are provided so that reprints may be ordered through the Library’s Photoduplication Service.
Each 63-page soft-cover volume in the series is available for $12.95 in the Library’s Sales Shop, Washington, D.C., 20540-4985. Credit card orders are taken at (888) 682-3557, or shop on the Internet at www.loc.gov/shop.
The books will also be on sale at a special event to celebrate their publication at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 16, in the Montpelier Room, located on the sixth floor of the Library’s James Madison Building at 101 Independence Ave. S.E, Washington, D.C. The event, which is free and open to the public, is part of the Books & Beyond author series sponsored by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. Timothy Egan will be the featured speaker for the evening.
The Library of Congress, the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution, is the world’s preeminent reservoir of knowledge, providing unparalleled integrated resources to Congress and the American people. Founded in 1800, the Library seeks to further human understanding and wisdom by providing access to knowledge through its magnificent collections, which bring to bear the world’s knowledge in almost all of the world’s languages and America’s private sector intellectual and cultural creativity in almost all formats. Many of the Library’s rich resources and treasures may also be accessed through the Library’s award-winning Web site www.loc.gov.
The Library’s Prints and Photographs Division houses more than 14 million visual materials. More than 1 million digitized images are accessible on the Prints and Photographs Online Catalog at www.loc.gov/rr/print/catalog.html. These include the more than 172,000 images that comprise the FSA/OWI Collection (http://lcweb2.loc.gov/pp/fsacabt.html). The collection’s 1,600 color images are also accessible through the online photo management and sharing application known as FLICKR, at www.flickr.com/photos/library_of_congress/sets/72157603671370361/.