sequence of digital files, black and white, silent, 1 minute and 44 seconds looped, 2009
During the Great Depression, the Historical Section of the Farm Security Administration documented American society in photographs. The director of this program, Roy Emerson Stryker, edited rolls of photographs taken in the field after they were sent to Washington, DC for processing. Not a photographer himself, but a social scientist and educator, Stryker had the ultimate say over which of the negatives exposed by FSA photographers were worthy of printing and publication. Thousands of the pictures made under the program’s auspices from 1935 to 1943 were rejected, or in Stryker’s term, killed. Roy Stryker and his assistants routinely killed 35mm negatives by punching holes in them, thereby rendering them unusable for publication. Photographers working under Stryker strenuously objected to an editorial practice that they regarded as dictatorial and capricious, and Stryker finally stopped destroying his subordinates’ work in the spring of 1939. All killed negatives were preserved and filed away, but they remained unprinted, and until recently, unseen. When the Library of Congress began making high resolution digital scans of FSA negatives available on its website, it included many rejected images, and among them, a small number of killed negatives mutilated by a hole punch. In “Killed,” these suppressed images downloaded from the Library of Congress website have been reframed with the holes as the central feature, and edited in a quick montage showing glimpses of an unofficial view of Depression-era America.
“KILLED” is now a book, published by PPP Editions.
Here is an interview about the project.
This work makes use of digitized negatives by the following photographers:
Walker Evans (1903-1975)
Theodor Jung (1906-1986)
Carl Mydans (1907-2004)
Marion Post Wolcott (1910-1990)
Arthur Rothstein (1915-1985)
Ben Shahn (1898-1969)
John Vachon (1914-1975).
All images are courtesy of the Library of Congress, Washington, D. C.
“KILLED” has also been reconfigured as Punctured
sequence of digital files, black and white, 4 minutes and 57 seconds looped, 2010
Here is a review by Eric Banks in the Paris Review.