It’s a rainy Thursday here, perfect weather to share this wonderful photo blog. These pictures, spanning from 1939 to 1943, were compiled by the Farm Security Administration and Office of War Information. Offering a glimpse into the lives of rural Americans, they are unique not only for the fact that they’re in color, but because they represent a subset of photography long since past.
Any photographer, amateur or professional, will appreciate the care taken to tell the stories of these people. Today, we live in an age where you can pick up a digital SLR, shoot hundreds of frames in a matter of minutes, and delete them twice as fast. The result is that you lose the ability to think critically, not just about your composition, but about your subject matter. Everything becomes expendable.
Trust me, there aren’t enough filters in Photoshop to re-create what you see here.
To any youngsters out there (yes, I am that annoying old person who freely dispenses unsolicited advice) enamored with photography, I urge you to pick up a manual SLR and let yourself struggle for a bit. When you know you’ve only got one chance to get it right, when you don’t have shots to waste, well, you’ll see what being serious about photography is really all about. Getting back that first roll and feeling disappointed will become a memory more priceless than all the ones of you heading into Photoshop to disguise what you never learned about lighting, about focus, about frame. . .
Technology is great. Hell, I wouldn’t be blogging this without it! But machines are only as good as the people using them. When you rely solely on their ability and intelligence, you take yourself out of the equation completely. The photos posted here are visceral, real, “could have been taken yesterday,” because the photographer was an active agent of their creation.
Yep, technology is great. But it’s not going to teach you the basic, essential elements. A machine is not going to teach you how to see.