“I have found the human race. It is like finding one’s family at last.”—Esther Bubley
“The main event in all these pictures, the twentieth century’s Main Event, is World War II. Bubley didn’t travel overseas during the war, but she covered the home front, capturing truth with her back turned to the spectacle. Enlistment, separation, fear, loss, homesickness, sorrow, patriotism, courage, and loneliness flow through these images.”—Melissa Fay Greene on Esther Bubley
The approximately 172,000 film negatives and transparencies in the Library of Congress’ collection from the Farm Security Administration (FSA), later the Office of War Information (OWI), provide a unique view of American life during the Great Depression and World War II. This government photography project, headed by Roy E. Stryker, employed many relatively unknown names who later became some of the 20th century’s best-known photographers.
Esther Bubley was born in Wisconsin in 1921 to Russian Jewish immigrants. Bubley was hired as a darkroom assistant at the OWI in 1942 but soon became a field photographer, recording US wartime life from a greyhound bus. After the war she worked for Life, Ladies’ Home Journal, Look, McCall’s, and Harper’s Bazaar, reporting from Europe, Central and South America, North Africa, Australia, and the Philippines. She died in 1998.
Each volume in the Fields of Vision series features an introduction to the work of a single FSA/OWI photographer by a leading contemporary author or writer, and presents 50 striking images that show how the particular vision of these photographers helped shape the collective identity of America. Their evocative pictures transport the viewer to American homes, farms, and streets of the 1930s and 1940s, while offering a glimpse of a new narrative and intimate style that was later to blossom on the pages of post-war magazines. For many Americans of the pre-television age, the diversity and complexity of their country was defined by the lenses of these men and women.
Melissa Fay Greene is the author of Praying for Sheetrock, The Temple Bombing, Last Man Out, and There Is No Me Without You: One Woman’s Odyssey to Rescue Her Country’s Children. A two-time National Book Award finalist, finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, and winner of the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award, the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize, and other honours, Greene has also written short pieces for The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Newsweek, Life, The Washington Post, and Good Housekeeping.
Series Editor Amy Pastan is an independent editor and book packager. She was formerly a staff editor at
the National Gallery of Art, Washington, and acquisitions editor at the Smithsonian Institution Press, where she developed volumes on photography and fine arts.
Table of contents
- Preface by W. Ralph Eubanks, former director of publishing, Library of Congress
- Introduction by Melissa Fay Greene
- Image credits