Monday, November 14, 2011

Bright Images Of Dark Times

Bright images in dark times: Mesmerising colour photographs show resolve of Greatest Generation during World War II

They are the images usually only seen in black and white - a fitting hue for the gloom of a 1940s America engaged in World War II and experiencing the Great Depression.

But these vivid photographs in glorious colour show better than ever what life on the United States home front was really like as war raged in Europe.

From a Californian female aircraft worker focused on checking electrical wiring, to children rolling potatoes into a barrel on a farmyard in Maine - the pictures illustrate the significant role of those not on the battle fields.
 Concentration: Women at work on C-47 Douglas cargo transport, Douglas Aircraft Company, Long Beach, California in October 1942.
 Greatest generation: Children gathering potatoes on a large farm, in the vicinity of Caribou, Aroostook County, Maine in October 1940. Schools did not open until the potatoes are harvested.
 Evocative: A woman aircraft worker at Vega Aircraft Corporation, in Burbank, California checks electrical assemblies in June 1942.

Photographers working for the United States Farm Security Administration (FSA) and later the Office of War Information (OWI) created the images between 1939 and 1944.

They depict life in the United States, including Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, with a focus on rural areas and farm labour, as well as the tremendous World War II mobilisation effort across factories, railroads, and aviation training.

In crystal clarity viewers can appreciate the might of America's industrial power, and how a whole nation, including housewives and even children, were put to work to win the war.

The pictures show the car factories which almost overnight were turned into munitions productions and the farms which churned out the produce to keep America fed.

Some 1,600 have been stored away for years as their monochrome counterparts were made public and became better known.
 Home front effort: Women workers install fixtures and assemblies to a tail fuselage section of a B-17 bomber at the Douglas Aircraft Company plant in Long Beach, California in October 1942.
 Winning the war without weapons: Carefully trained women inspectors inspect cargo transport innerwings before they are assembled on the fuselage, Douglas Aircraft Company, in Long Beach, California.
 Rations: This picture of the Grand Grocery Co., in Lincoln, Nebraska shows how grapefruits were five times as expensive as oranges.

But now the Library of Congress is sharing the photographs on Flickr, and is encouraging members to add comments, notes, and tags to help identify their exact subject matter.

The original images are colour transparencies ranging in size from 35mm to 4.5 inches.

Flickr users were unanimous in their praise. 'I have never been able to truly envision this era in color, and now I CAN,' one wrote. 'I cannot tell you how amazing and insightful this is to me!'
 Easy riders: A trio going to town on a Saturday afternoon in May 1941 in Greene County, Georgia.

 War effort: Women are trained to do precise and vital engine installation detail in Douglas Aircraft Company plants, Long Beach, California, while a girl in a glass house is putting finishing touches on the bombardier nose section of a B-17F navy bomber. Both in October 1942.
 Trains on their way: A general view, taken in in December 1942, of one of the classification yards of the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad, Chicago, Illinois.
Hills are alive: A farmland in the Catskill country, in New York State in June 1943.


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