1940s Streets of Chicago Captured through the Eyes of a Young Photographer

street photography Chicago John Vachon

In the throes of World War II and the Great Depression, the American government created the Farm Security Administration to help impoverished farmers get on their feet. As part of the process, they formed a now legendary set of photographers—Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans among others—to document life for these everyday Americans.

At just 21 years old John Vachon joined the FSA, first as a messenger while attending college. He later took up photography after being inspired by the documentary photography team. Like fellow FSA photographer Edwin Rosskam, Vachon arrived in Chicago in 1941. While Rosskam covered the experience of African Americans in the city’s Southside, Vachon, still a rookie photographer, took a different approach.

His pulled back view belies his status as a young photographer gaining experience, but there is a fresh, spontaneous approach to his photography that makes the work uniquely his. Vachon’s Chicago vacillates between the home of well-heeled ladies on shopping trips to depictions of abject poverty, as men sit slumped on sidewalks or stand outside the local bar. From the glossy exterior to the gritty underbelly, the young photographer deftly captures the multi-faceted face of 1941 Chicago.

FSA photographer John Vachon was in his early twenties when he traveled to Chicago to document living conditions in the city.

John Vachon 1940s Chicago street photography
John Vachon 1940s Chicago street photography
old photos of Chicago John Vachon
street photography Chicago John Vachon
photos of Chicago in the 1940s
photos of Chicago in the 1940s
street photography Chicago John Vachon
photos of Chicago in the 1940s
John Vachon 1940s Chicago street photography
photos of Chicago in the 1940s
photos of Chicago in the 1940s

His 1941 images depict a multifaceted city, bursting with vibrance while also containing a gritty underbelly.

street photography Chicago John Vachon
black and white photos of Chicago
street photography Chicago John Vachon
old photos of Chicago John Vachon
old photos of Chicago John Vachon
old photos of Chicago John Vachon
old photos of Chicago John Vachon
old photos of Chicago John Vachon
black and white photos of Chicago
street photography Chicago John Vachon
fsa photography chicago 1940s
fsa photography chicago 1940s
fsa photography chicago 1940s

h/t: [Design You Trust]

All images via the Library of Congress.

Related Articles:

Yale University Unveils 170,000 Fascinating Photos Documenting the Great Depression and WWII

The Story Behind the Iconic ‘Migrant Mother’ Photo that Defined the Great Depression

Interview: Legendary Photographer Spends 70 Years Documenting American History

Once-Censored Photos of the WWII Japanese Internment Camps Are Finally Revealed

Striking B&W Photos Capture the Black Experience in 1940s South Side Chicago

The post 1940s Streets of Chicago Captured through the Eyes of a Young Photographer appeared first on My Modern Met.

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