Photogrammar is an online archive that holds 170,000 photographs spanning from January 1935 to June 1944. The photos shown were taken by many different photographers, who were directed by the Farm Security Administration and the Office of War Information, both departments of the U.S. government. The purpose of the original photographs was to persuade the American public about the value of the programs that President Roosevelt’s New Deal had created. Later, as America joined the second World War, the photographer’s goal was to capture images showing the American public as healthy, prospering, and ready to fight. All of the photos were placed into the Library of Congress in 1942, where they still remain.
The website outlines its purpose as a way to “use statistics and data science to increase access to large cultural data sets”. That is to say, the goal of Photogrammar is to increase the public’s access to the large cultural data base of the photographs taken during the 1930s and 1940s in the United States. The production of Photogrammar was originally taken on by a graduate student, Lauren Tilton, and a doctoral candidate, Taylor Arnold, as a final project for a college level course. Currently the website is maintained by the University of Richmond.
Navigation of the website features is easily done.
When first opening the website, you are fronted with a map of the United States color-coded by counties. You can click on a State to get a clearer view of the counties and from there select which counties photos you would like to view. There is another map organized by cities and towns, which you get to by clicking on a link in the header of the webpage. Similarly, you select which state you want to view photos taken in and the select which city/town you want to view. These photos are coded with circles of various sizes related to the number of images available in the archive.
Images are also sorted by the themes contained within the photos. The tiles vary in size depending on how many photos contain the theme. Themes included are Work, Religion, War, The Land, and others.
The website also contains a section on who the photographers were. When selecting a photographer, the photos taken as part of this project also come up, along with a biography on the person, and in some cases an audio interview and interview transcript with them. The interviews were recorded in 1963 to 1965 as part of an initiative by the Smithsonian Archives of American Art’s New Deal and the Arts project.
Finally, one can also search through the photographs using a search feature. The search feature lets you narrow down photographers, themes, states and counties, photo captions, and time frames. The tags used to sort the photos were created in 1942 by Paul Vanderbilt.
Photogrammar is a cleanly designed website archive that allows for multiple ways of discovering photos taken in the United States during the 1930s and 1940s. Along with the photos, one is able to learn more about the initiative by both the photographers and the director of the program.