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Around The Board

Photographs of American Life, 1910--60

Untitled by Esther Bubley, 1943 Gelatin silver print

Esther Bubley
Untitled (Arlington Cemetery,
Arlington, VA, An American Legion
Color Bearer Singing “America”
in the Ampitheater)
, 1943
Gelatin silver print
Gift of Cam and Wanda Garner

Women riveters in the Long Beach by Alfred T. Palmer, 1942 Gelatin silver print

Alfred T. Palmer
Women riveters in the Long Beach,
California play of Douglas Aircraft
Company work together in the
building of another B-17F heavy
, 1942
Gelatin silver print
Gift from the collection of Michael
and Joyce Axelrod, Mill Valley, California

An exhibition at the Federal Reserve Board from May 20 to November 15, 2013

This exhibition captures the essence of Americans--at home, work, and play--in the first half of the twentieth century. The images tell the stories of individuals toiling at jobs, partaking in leisure activities, or coping with economic hardships, in cities, large and small, and on farms across the United States. Many important artists are represented, including early female photographers Berenice Abbott, and Esther Bubley; Farm Security Administration photographers Jack Delano and Russell Lee; and Life magazine photojournalists Alfred Eisenstaedt and Gjon Mili.

Increasingly, photographs were used to present information to the American public. Changes in style and technological advancements in the early twentieth century caused a shift in photography from soft, romantic images to works that were sharply focused, with greater depths of field and clearly defined details. This change set the stage for social documentary photography, a form of photography that became popular in the 1930s, and is exemplified in this exhibit. Social documentary photographers focused on capturing images of people from all walks of life. In time, photographs began to drive newspaper and magazine content. By the 1940s and 50s, photographers started to apply their unique visual approaches to the images, using techniques such as lighting and vantage points to define their works.

The photographs included in this exhibition are a part of the Federal Reserve Board’s growing art collection. The acquisition of these works was made possible with the help of many generous donors. 

Photographs of American Life, 1910--60 is open to the public Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., except federal holidays. Reservations are required at least five business days in advance. For reservations and further information, please email






Last update: May 13, 2013