Editor's Pick

Photos: July Fourth Around The Country

In the 1930s and '40s, the federally funded Farm Security Administration (FSA) dispatched a group of documentary photographers to capture scenes of Depression- and World War II-era America. It provided photographers with steady work, but also gave the government full ownership of the photos. The iconic imagery that resulted — taken by such now recognizable names as Dorothea Lange, Gordon Parks and Walker Evans — was archived by the Library of Congress and is today available to the public.

Photos from the Library of Congress
Photos by Dorothea Lange, Gordon Parks, Walker Evans/Library of Congress

The Library of Congress recently announced a new partnership that is being compared by some to the FSA project. The Library will be working with an organization called Facing Change: Documenting America (FCDA) to archive and preserve photos and stories gathered by contemporary photographers and writers.

Unlike the public FSA project, FCDA draws on public, private and foreign donors — including the Soros Foundation and Leica Cameras. "The projects are a mixture of pet and funded projects," says founder and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Lucian Perkins. "For example, we recently received money from French TV and Leica to do a number of projects on America."

FCDA was conceived around Obama's inauguration. "Throughout that week, we had lot of discussions about photography, the FSA, the inauguration and challenges facing America," Perkins explains. "That's when we came up with the idea of Facing Change: Documenting America."

Shannon Perich, photography curator at Smithsonian, seems somewhat skeptical of the FSA comparison. "Perhaps too much time, photography, history and politics has passed for there to ever be a real photography project that performs and functions like the FSA."

Perich cites Magnum, Agency VII and INSTITUTE as examples of collectives that provide a supportive infrastructure for photographers to pursue their own stories in an industry where paid assignments are declining in number.

But in a way, perhaps this is history coming full circle. The Library of Congress, a public institution, is now acting as a collector and publisher of contemporary photography — at a time when photographers are hard-pressed to find regular, paid work.

Though the FCDA is ultimately quite different from FSA, perhaps the idea is that the photographs will have the same far-reaching impact and, one day, the same historical significance. The cast of contributors will certainly help with that: FCDA currently consists of 10 photographers, including award-winning Anthony Suau and David Burnett; the writers include Dan Baum and Katherine Boo of The New Yorker.

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To give a better sense of what they will be documenting, the photographers shared this selection of images taken around the country on July 4.

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