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Spring 2001, pages 37-68

Documentary as Art in U.S. Camera

Abstract: This essay studies how photographs made by the Farm Security Administration (FSA) during the Depression negotiate the complicated rhetorical space between "art" and "documentary" in Edward Steichen and Tom Maloney's photography journal U. S. Camera. I conclude that Steichen's insistence upon separating the documentary purposes of the FSA project from issues of aesthetics relies upon the construction of a false dichotomy that is nevertheless rhetorically productive, for it recognizes the realities of the time-that a government photography project created to publicize efforts to manage poverty could not align itself with the discourses of art and expect to survive.

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