The Rush for Gold

The January 1848 chance discovery of gold in northern California rapidly altered the course of America. On this day, August 19, in 1848, word finally reached the East Coast, when the New York Herald published a report of the discovery. By 1849, the rush was on in earnest, leading to the well-known term for gold […]

New Video Series on “Reading” Pictures: Every Photo is a Story

When I look at my family photographs, the stories behind them usually come flooding back to me. I recall the occasion–and often people and events I associate with the occasion, even if they aren’t shown in the pictures. But lacking those personal associations, photographs–especially historical photographs–can seem like vast mysteries–or closed storybooks. Now a wonderful […]

Beating the Summer Heat

During a Washington D.C. summer, it’s a given that it will be hot and humid, and this summer is definitely living up to that standard. While I was thinking about how much I love air conditioning, my attention was caught by these photos, featuring people seeking relief from the heat in a time when air conditioning […]

Sampling Slices of the FSA/OWI Collection

Anyone who has ever dipped into the amazing Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information photograph collection has probably experienced the same sensations that a pie eating contestant must face: mouth-watering temptation combined with a sinking sense that one will soon be overwhelmed. There are many ways to explore the 175,000 black-and-white photographs in the collection. […]

Keep Mum: WPA Posters Do the Talking

Artists working for the Federal Art Project (FAP), a part of the Work Projects Administration (WPA), created thousands of posters between 1936 and 1943. The posters took on all manner of topics: public health and safety, cultural events and exhibitions, education, tourism, and wartime warnings, to name a few. Only a small percentage of those […]

Fathers and Daughters

The instinctual bond between father and daughter is so fundamental that it must be writ deep within us at the level of blood and bone. Below are five photographic portrayals of a father and daughter: three by John Vachon and two by Russell Lee. Four of the five were shot in 1939 during each man’s work for the Farm Security […]