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Photos of Photographers in the Great Depression

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During the Great Depression, the US government launched the largest photography project it ever sponsored by sending photographers across the country to document America. Of the 170,000 photos captured by photographers such as Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans, and Arthur Rothstein, some of them showed other photographers at work with their cameras.

We’ve gathered together a collection of photos showing photographers during the Great Depression (and the few years following it) between 1935 and 1946.

Arthur Rothstein, FSA (Farm Security Administration) photographer
Arthur Rothstein, FSA (Farm Security Administration) photographer

Arlington Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia. A girl taking a picture of the ceremony of laying a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Photo by Esther Bubley.
Arlington Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia. A girl taking a picture of the ceremony of laying a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Photo by Esther Bubley.
Children at the FSA (Farm Security Administration) Camelback Farms inspect the photographer's camera, Phoenix, Arizona. Photo by Russell Lee.
Children at the FSA (Farm Security Administration) Camelback Farms inspect the photographer’s camera, Phoenix, Arizona. Photo by Russell Lee.
News photographers at tourist camp, Washington, D.C. Photo by Reginald Hotchkiss.
News photographers at tourist camp, Washington, D.C. Photo by Reginald Hotchkiss.
Photographer and editor of local paper at cornhusking contest, Marshall County, Iowa. Photo by Arthur Rothstein.
Photographer and editor of local paper at cornhusking contest, Marshall County, Iowa. Photo by Arthur Rothstein.
Itinerant photographer in Columbus, Ohio. Photo by Ben Shahn.
Itinerant photographer in Columbus, Ohio. Photo by Ben Shahn.
Washington D.C. News photographers making movies. Transplanting a tree on emergency office space construction job. Photo by John Collier.
Washington D.C. News photographers making movies. Transplanting a tree on emergency office space construction job. Photo by John Collier.
Girl taking picture of crowd, National Rice Festival, Crowley, Louisiana. Photo by Russell Lee.
Girl taking picture of crowd, National Rice Festival, Crowley, Louisiana. Photo by Russell Lee.
Washington, D.C. Publicity photographer and model at the municipal swimming pool on Sunday. Photo by Marjory Collins.
Washington, D.C. Publicity photographer and model at the municipal swimming pool on Sunday. Photo by Marjory Collins.
Steady dad, this is for the folks at home. Cherry Blossom Festival, Washington, D.C. Photo by Martha McMillan Roberts.
Steady dad, this is for the folks at home. Cherry Blossom Festival, Washington, D.C. Photo by Martha McMillan Roberts.
Tourist using candid camera, Taos, New Mexico. Photo by Russell Lee.
Tourist using candid camera, Taos, New Mexico. Photo by Russell Lee.
Street photographer. Smithfield, North Carolina. Photo by Arthur Rothstein.
Street photographer. Smithfield, North Carolina. Photo by Arthur Rothstein.
Washington, D.C. Taking pictures of the cherry blossoms. Photo by Esther Bubley.
Washington, D.C. Taking pictures of the cherry blossoms. Photo by Esther Bubley.
County agent taking pictures, Parke County, Indiana. Photo by Arthur Rothstein.
County agent taking pictures, Parke County, Indiana. Photo by Arthur Rothstein.
Photography in information work. United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Washington, D.C. Photo by Arthur Rothstein.
Photography in information work. United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Washington, D.C. Photo by Arthur Rothstein.
Tintype cameraman, San Antonio, Texas. Photo by Russell Lee.
Tintype cameraman, San Antonio, Texas. Photo by Russell Lee.
Making snapshots along the Mohawk Trail, Massachusetts. Photo by John Collier.
Making snapshots along the Mohawk Trail, Massachusetts. Photo by John Collier.
Camera bugs snapping the cherry blossoms across the Tidal Basin. Cherry Blossom Festival, Washington, D.C. Photo by Martha McMillan Roberts.
Camera bugs snapping the cherry blossoms across the Tidal Basin. Cherry Blossom Festival, Washington, D.C. Photo by Martha McMillan Roberts.
Washington, D.C. Photographers from the Negro press at Howard University commencement exercises. Photo by Gordon Parks.
Washington, D.C. Photographers from the Negro press at Howard University commencement exercises. Photo by Gordon Parks.
High school Victory Corps. Photography is one of the skills students at Washington High School in Los Angeles, California, learn which will help them to contribute to the war effort. Photo by Alfred T. Palmer.
High school Victory Corps. Photography is one of the skills students at Washington High School in Los Angeles, California, learn which will help them to contribute to the war effort. Photo by Alfred T. Palmer.
Los Angeles, California. Japanese-American evacuation from West Coast areas under U.S. Army war emergency order. Photographers at the train taking Japanese-Americans to Owens Valley. Photo by Russell Lee.
Los Angeles, California. Japanese-American evacuation from West Coast areas under U.S. Army war emergency order. Photographers at the train taking Japanese-Americans to Owens Valley. Photo by Russell Lee.
Photographer for local paper during National Rice Festival, Crowley, Louisiana. Photo by Russell Lee.
Photographer for local paper during National Rice Festival, Crowley, Louisiana. Photo by Russell Lee.
Oswego, New York. Heroes visiting during United Nations week lined up for a photograph by a local newspaper photographer. Photo by Marjory Collins.
Oswego, New York. Heroes visiting during United Nations week lined up for a photograph by a local newspaper photographer. Photo by Marjory Collins.
Washington, D.C. Street photographer in front of the Capitol. Photo by Esther Bubley.
Washington, D.C. Street photographer in front of the Capitol. Photo by Esther Bubley.

You can browse through the entire collection of FSA-OWI File photos over on Photogrammar.


Image credits: Header photo of “Tin-type photographer at Morrisville, Vermont fair” by Carl Mydans. All photos from the FSA-OWI File, obtained through Photogrammar/Yale.

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