origins of color photography


Over the past few years, the art world has rediscovered color photographers–such as William Eggleston, Stephen Shore, and Joel Sternfeld–who, in the 1970s and early ’80s, helped push the medium from the confines of commercial magazines into the realm of high art. At first glance, the vivid depictions of American life in “Bound for Glory,” on view at the Library of Congress through November 26, might be mistaken for works by one of their contemporaries. Familiar scenes from the American vernacular abound–gas stations, bars, store fronts, churches, home interiors–all rendered in the characteristically rich hues of then-popular Kodachrome slide film. The images, however, are more than 60 years old, created between 1939 and 1943 by photographers working for the Farm Security Administration (FSA). Despite the establishment’s past condescension toward color photography, these pioneering works are anything but facile.

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