|Photos of the Great Depression archived|
|Written by Melissa Castor, Daily Vidette Staff Writer|
|Sunday, 13 September 2009 22:11|
Valuable aerial photographs of central Illinois during the Great Depression are being destroyed over time, each only have one print copy left in existence. It was during the 1930s that the Agriculture Adjustment Administration, as part of President Roosevelt’s New Deal programs, began to collect aerial photography. Today AAA is regarded as one of the earliest applications of aerial photography on such a large scale anywhere in the world.
Guest speaker Donald E. Luman, senior professional scientist of the Illinois State Geological survey, said, “It was quite groundbreaking. It was the very first time … that an inventory of the land had been done.”
Unfortunately, according to Luman there is only one source in existence of the aerial shots and the print is being destroyed over time. However, to alleviate the problem, the Library of Congress has scanned many of the prints and converted them to digital form.
The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division is close to finishing the scans and digitalization of the Illinois aerial photos for public use. As for the originals, some of these photos are closer to home than most realize.
“Your library actually holds some of these photos,” Luman said.
Also created by Roosevelt, Luman said, was the Resettlement Administration. The program formed a Historical Section to photographically document all of the agency’s projects. This project was responsible for creating lasting ground images of the Great Depression in the United States.
However, it was thanks to Roy Stryker, the director of the historical section at the time, that so many photographs were produced. He assembled a group of 18 photographers that took an estimated 270,000 photos.
The photos depicting human suffering during the Great Depression were banned during World War II. Instead, photographers were made to take propaganda photos showing the U.S. in good light.
To help students get a better sense of the images, Luman showed a video compilation of ground and aerial photos during the Great Depression.
It included photographs taken by Stryker’s assemblage of famous photographers of the time including Evan Walkers, Dorothea Lange and Arthur Rothstein. Luman accompanied the photos with folk music of the time in order to throw the audience into the era.
Mike Clementz, senior geography major, said, “I thought it was interesting to see all the photos.”
Most of the photos depicted the people of the country side. However, the last few photos depicted the people of Chicago. The music changed from folk to a jazz number by Louis Armstrong to draw the audience into the atmosphere of the city.
“I kind of realize how [the people] felt at the time. The photos did a good job of representing that. I think it would be interesting to see more,” Clementz said.
When asked how the photos made him feel, Luman responded, “I think of my parents…both of my parents went through the Depression.”