To The City

To The City: Urban Photographs of the New Deal

Julia L. Foulkes
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Temple University Press
Pages: 128
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  • Book Info
    To The City
    Book Description:

    In the 1930s and 1940s, as the United States moved from a rural to an urban nation, the pull of the city was irrepressible. It was so strong that even a photographic mission designed to record the essence of rural America could not help but capture the energy of urbanization too.To the Cityshowcases over 100 photographs from the Farm Security Administration (FSA) project along with extracts from the Works Progress Administration (WPA) guidebooks and oral histories, to convey the detail and dimensions of that transformation.

    This artfully grouped collection of photographs includes magnificent images by notable photographers Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans and Gordon Parks, among many others. Foulkes organizes this history of Americana into five themes: Intersection; Traffic; High Life and Low Life; The City in the Country; and Citizens to illuminate the changes in habits, landscapes, and aspirations that the march to cities encompassed.

    As the rural past holds symbolic sway and the suburb presents demographic force, the urban portion of our history-why and how cities have been a destination for hope-recedes from view.To the Cityis a thoughtful, engaging reminder.

    eISBN: 978-1-59213-999-6
    Subjects: Art & Art History, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    Photographs of the Great Depression fill our repository of images of the American past, giving us a snapshot not only of the material characteristics of that era but of its values as well. Dorothea Lange’s “Migrant Mother,” perhaps the best known picture of the period, combines the fortitude associated with farmers with the pathos of struggle, bringing forward the mythical yeoman farmer into the unsettling circumstances of the twentieth century. Such photographs have shaped our view of the 1930s. Most of them were produced through the Historical Section of the Farm Security Administration (first called the Resettlement Administration), which was...

  6. 1 Intersection
    (pp. 11-32)

    Contrasts mark a city. Old folks encounter young ones; strangers mix with neighbors; new buildings spring up among old; signs, people, buildings, animals compete for attention; people from different jobs and backgrounds cross paths. The intersections of these contrasting elements provide much of the verve of city life, but the most basic intersection in a city is that between streets. A crossing of streets literally allows one to tack in a new direction, to move from one place to another; it often provides a moment of slowdown or a stop in the course of moving along one’s way. Photographs not...

  7. 2 Traffic
    (pp. 33-54)

    From aerial photographs to pictures of human encounters, random and intentional, images of intersections reveal the enduring qualities of city life—the diversity and busyness of its streets. The photographs in this chapter compress the intersections at the heart of urban life to their mechanized level. A shooting script by Roy Stryker, in fact, included “Intersections” and identified those that demanded photographers’ attention as “Cross Roads; Side Roads; Cloverleaf Passes; Over and Under Passes.”¹ While roads and highways appear throughout the FSA/OWI collection, a pair of photographs exemplifies the primacy of people in the traffic of the urban landscape. The...

  8. 3 High Life and Low Life
    (pp. 55-76)

    People moved around the city—by cars, buses, trolleys, and subways. Often, this movement took them to work, but perhaps just as often it took them out on the town, to partake of the “High Life and Low Life,” as the American Guide Series volume on San Francisco described that city’s cultural atmosphere. At the end of the subway line in New York City lay Coney Island, and the train ride to get there was a spectacle in itself, laying open the city for view. People traveled to Atlantic City to experience that city solely as amusement. Photographs throughout the...

  9. 4 The City in the Country
    (pp. 77-98)

    Lists of amusements were common in city volumes of the American Guide Series, but even guides to more rural states noted the influence of “culture, in the urban sense,” as South Dakota’s guidebook put it, in the rise of libraries, literary societies, touring dramas, art exhibits, and lectures.¹ Boys peer into a nickelodeon at a South Louisiana State Fair seeking the allure of sex and the variety of enticements the big city offers (Figure 4.1). Photographs display the increasing presence of the city in the countryside, revealing the flow of images, goods, ideas, and habits between these two areas. Cars...

  10. 5 Citizens
    (pp. 99-120)

    Among the aspirations linked to urban life, perhaps none was more captivating than the opportunity for full participation and citizenship. Immigrants from around the world as well as migrants from rural areas, especially African Americans, came to the cities of the United States drawn by this promise (Figure 5.1). A cigar maker originally from Spain shows his yellowed, creased citizenship paper to an interviewer—then carefully refolds it and places it back in a safe.¹ Cities provided a chance to work toward citizenship and ample evidence of democracy in action, and immigrants added to the increasingly cosmopolitan nature of urban...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 121-126)
  12. Index
    (pp. 127-128)