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Archive for Sunday, November 28, 2010

Behind the Lens: Granada part of historic FSA collection

This photograph, taken by Farm Security Administration photographer John Vachon, captures the Granada Theater in Lawrence, Kansas, in Oct. 1938. The caption reads: "Southern California architecture in Lawrence, Kansas". The photograph is one of 164,000 gathered by photographers between 1935-1945 for the Farm Security Administration and the Office of War Information. Both collections reside in the Prints and Photographs Division at the Library of Congress. Nearly 1,000 of the photographs were taken in the state of Kansas. ..

This photograph, taken by Farm Security Administration photographer John Vachon, captures the Granada Theater in Lawrence, Kansas, in Oct. 1938. The caption reads: "Southern California architecture in Lawrence, Kansas". The photograph is one of 164,000 gathered by photographers between 1935-1945 for the Farm Security Administration and the Office of War Information. Both collections reside in the Prints and Photographs Division at the Library of Congress. Nearly 1,000 of the photographs were taken in the state of Kansas. ..

November 28, 2010, 12:00 a.m. Updated 12:00 a.m.

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In October of 1938, photographer John Vachon made a stop in Lawrence and took a picture of the exterior of the Granada Theater, 1020 Mass. Visible in the frame is a Jayhawk Taxi, a Baker University automobile and the Union Bus depot. The Marx Brothers’ movie “Room Service” is on the theater marquee, and the coffee shop next door is advertising 35 cent dinners. We don’t know why Vachon documented this particular scene, but the caption reads “Southern California architecture in Lawrence, Kansas.” Whatever his motivation, this image appears to be the only photograph from Lawrence among 164,000 in the Farm Security Administration collection of photographs in the Library of Congress.

The FSA was created in the Department of Agriculture in 1937. It was one of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal programs designed to assist poor farmers during the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. Great Bend native Roy Stryker headed a photography section of the FSA, sending photographers across the country to gather pictorial evidence of the country’s condition. In the collection are some of the most famous documentary photographs ever produced. Among the young and talented group, in addition to Vachon were Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange and Fort Scott native Gordon Parks.

Vachon spent two weeks in Kansas before heading north to Nebraska. He photographed a farm auction in Oskaloosa and documented people on the town square there. He fell in love with the “ecstatically magnificent Great Plains.” In 1973 Vachon wrote about his 1938 trip. “I got into dozens of farmhouses (What a wonderful job I had: How else could I have ever been in a farmer’s house in Red Willow County?), and I photographed the whole family sitting down to dinner,” Vachon said. “And there were the towns! I was 24 years old, and this was America before the Holiday Inn.”

In Lawrence, Vachon may have attended the Marx Brothers’ movie or dined at the cafe next door, but there is record of only one image that documented his time here. But in the FSA collection, approximately 1,000 images are from Kansas. And because all the FSA photographers were working for the U.S. government, these images are accessible to everyone. For access to the entire collection go to http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/fsahtml/fahome.html.

Comments

oneeye_wilbur 3 years, 4 months ago

Take downtown back to look like the photo. That would be historical and put Mass St. on the map.

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g_rock 3 years, 4 months ago

I can't remember how I stumbled across this collection about 5 or so years ago. There aren't many Lawrence and Topeka pictures...but the Granada one is memorable! I think there were some Topeka ones taken at one of the Santa Fe shops too.

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bluerose 3 years, 4 months ago

wonderful set of photographs! thanks for publishing them.

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