Photography has come a long way since 1940. At that time, fine-art photography was entirely black and white — the content usually either landscape or portrait. But nowadays, when the rules of photography are a lot less stringent, there's something to be said for the classic simplicity of landscapes.
Walla Walla, Wash. By Russell Lee, July 1941.
Mojave Desert country crossed by the Santa Fe railway line in Cadiz, Calif. By Jack Delano, March 1943.
Northeast Utah. By John Vachon, April 1942.
Sangre de Cristo Mountains between New Mexico and Colorado. By John Collier, spring 1943.
Mountains in northern New Mexico. By John Collier, ca. 1943.
Westward vista over the Rio Grande Valley from the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. By John Collier, spring 1943.
The Jackson farm, vicinity of White Plains, Ga. By Jack Delano, June 1941.
Newly harvested oats on a southeastern Georgia farm. By Marion Post Wolcott, May 1939.
Recently cut tobacco near Lexington, Ky. By Marion Post Wolcott, September 1940.
Field along Skyline Drive in Virginia. By Jack Delano, circa 1940.
Farmland in the Taconic range, near the Hudson River Valley in New York state. By John Collier, June 1943.
Tobacco country, near Barranquitas, Puerto Rico. By Jack Delano, December 1941.
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It may seem strange that these spectacular images were commissioned by the U.S. government. They're from the same Works Progress Administration/Farm Security Administration project that we featured a few weeks ago. But it was with this government funding that some of the most renowned American documentary photographers got their start.
Woody Guthrie's lyrics to "This Land Is Your Land," as well as those to "America the Beautiful" — really seem to resonate in this collection. From California to the New York islands, here's a view of how America looked around 1940 — in color. All images courtesy Library of Congress via Flickr Commons.