Book Reviews -- Farm Security Administration Photographs of Florida by Michael Carlbach and Eugene F. Provenzo Jr

Article excerpt

Carlbach, Michael and Eugene F. Provenzo, Jr. Farm Security Administration Photographs of Florida. Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida, 1993. 144 pp. $34.90.

Michael Carlebach's and Eugene Provenzo's readable analysis of Florida's economic and social crisis in the 1920s and the 1930s, juxtapositioned with photographs selected from the files of the Farm Security Administration's photographic project, is likely the way the project's founders envisioned the photographs being published. Rex Tugwell, a member of President Franklin Roosevelt's "Brains Trust," and Roy Stryker, whom Tugwell hired as the project's director, had both been economics professors at Columbia University and had used good documentary photographs in their academic writing.

Some critics have charged that the massive federally funded photography project was only "Roosevelt Administration propaganda," designed to provide photographs for distribution to newspaper, magazine, and book publishers. It was hoped this would help build support for the New Deal legislative program.

Carlbach and Provenu write that their goal was not to examine the F.S.A. photographs or the controversies the project has generated but to "provide a social and political context for the images." However, their essay on the project's development makes a significant contribution to our understanding of how Stryker organized and directed the photographers.

Few, if any, of the 100 or so most often published F.S.A. photographs, which have become classic visual icons of the Depression, were shot in Florida. …


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