Hard times: Images of the Great Depression still have the power to move and astonish
"I see one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished…" So declared Franklin D Roosevelt in March 1937. He wasn't the only one: during an ambitious photography project run by the US Farm Security Administration between 1935 and 1941, 12 photographers trained their lenses on America's rural communities, painfully capturing the poverty of the Great Depression.
In 1962, Edward Steichen, photographer and director at New York's Museum of Modern Art, selected more than 200 shots from the FSA archive for an exhibition entitled The Bitter Years. He arranged them in 15 themed sections, under headings such as 'Tractored Out', 'Field Workers' and 'Heroic Women', interspersed with text, including that Roosevelt quote and testimonies from those pictured.
The exhibition, frank and unflinching yet also deeply moving, was never catalogued; now a new book reproduces not only the photographs but also Steichen's careful sequencing.
The FSA project helped launch the careers of many photographers, most notably Dorothea Lange – 84 of the images were hers, reflecting her own, and Steichen's, interest in portraiture.
While The Bitter Years included haunting landscape shots of arid fields, lonely roads and makeshift living quarters, its most gut-wrenching are surely the intimate images of thin-limbed, wide-eyed and wary subjects.
'The Bitter Years' is published by Thames & Hudson, £38
Music Why this music festival is still the place to spot the next big thing
Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Finland schools: Subjects scrapped and replaced with 'topics' as country reforms its education system
- 2 The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
- 3 #FreeTheNipple: Women in Iceland bare breasts in solidarity with trolled student
- 4 Scientists have discovered a simple way to cook rice that dramatically cuts the calories
- 5 Zayn Malik quits One Direction: Hundreds of workers request compassionate leave following band member's exit
Jeremy Clarkson to host BBC's Have I Got News For You despite Top Gear exit
Kay Burley 'bias' against Ed Miliband prompts 130 complaints to Ofcom
A historian gave the most British look of despair when someone screwed up Richard III's birthday at his reburial
Zayn Malik already working on solo material, just days after quitting One Direction
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
Nigel Farage brands LGBT activists 'filth' and 'scum' and accuses them of scaring away his children after they invade his local pub
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
JK Rowling responds to fan tweeting she 'can't see' Dumbledore being gay
Russia threatens Denmark with nuclear weapons if it tries to join Nato defence shield
Jeremy Clarkson sacked live: Alan Yentob 'wouldn't rule out' ex Top Gear host's BBC return
Germanwings plane crash live: Co-pilot Andreas Lubitz wanted to 'do something people would remember him for'