FSA Propaganda

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Not all of America responded kindly to FSA’s photos and documentaries, or to the New Deal for that matter. Many claimed photographers and filmmakers along with Eastern bureaucrats sensationalized and “exaggerated the damage of the Dust Bowl, had vilified an entire region in order to score political points for the Roosevelt administration” (Dunaway, 2005, pp. 54-55). Though many alleged FSA photos were politically driven, Stryker held steadfast to his ideals and denied they served as government propaganda (Gordon, 2006; Brennen & Hardt, 1999; Stange, 1989). Some have argued the photos themselves were not propaganda, but became propaganda because of how they pushed a specific ideology on the public. Carlebach explains: The photographs produced…show more content…
Many believed the Dust Bowl and floods of the Great Depression were natural disasters and framed destruction of the Great Plains as the result of weather, not human-created tragedies, even though scientific evidence proved otherwise. However, when the news and government framed stories a consequence of weather conditions they failed to communicate the balance of nature was overturned thanks to the unbridled settling of the land that caused ecological disaster. Although FSA photos and conservation photos of that era documented loss of open places and spaces, Lorentz reminds us that in America’s quest for domination over the land, almost forgotten how much we rely on nature for survival. The news presented only part of the story, devastation. Largely missing from reporting why ecological disaster came about, the connection between water and soil, and how unrestrained use and poor planning led to disaster. It is here contradictions emerged how best to prevent future environmental harms. Progressive-era conservationists concerned with protecting the nation’s public lands, in contrast, New Deal reformers advocated agricultural reform but focused on privately owned lands (Dunaway, 2005; Jacoby, 2001). They looked to past civilizations to better understand how to avoid ecological ruin such as flood control, soil erosion, and farming techniques. Even today, politicians and many in society are…show more content…
As many as 13 photographers were commissioned by the FSA and produced well over 270,000 images (prints and negatives) during this time span. Not only did the FSA provide visual proof of the social and economic problems facing America, these photos are significant for they exposed the disparities of living in America and helped shape policy and social reform after the First World War. They set a precedent for a new genre of storytelling that combined visuals with words, and collectively remembered for documentation of strife and discontent in America. The FSA photos and documentaries are part of history and continue to be included in numerous photo books, magazines, newspapers, news services, museums, and exhibits as one of the most convincing examples of documentary photography. In retrospect, this form of visual advocacy served a higher purpose that elevated art as a form of social awareness and brought legitimacy to social reform and to the masses. These photographers and filmmakers are significant for the blending of science and art that criticized culture and ideology. As we shall see later in this book, photos (and media) with a purpose live on and documentarians continue to emulate many of these stylistic techniques practicing the science of ecology of the
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