Kevin Briggs Photography

1930s "Killed" Photographs

Kevin Briggs
Library of Congress

Library of Congress

Mashable reports, "The photos look just like the most famous... images of Depression-era America. Laborers with weathered faces stare into the distance, sharecropping families stand on splintered porches and rag-clad children play in the dust. But each picture is haunted by a strange black void. It hangs in the sky like an inverted sun, it eclipses a child’s face, it hovers menacingly in the corner of a room. The black hole is the handiwork of Roy Stryker, the director of the Farm Security Administration's (FSA) documentary photography program. He was responsible for hiring photographers such as Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans, Arthur Rothstein and Gordon Parks and dispatching them across the country to document the struggles of the rural poor."

"When the photographers returned with their negatives, Stryker or his assistants would edit them ruthlessly. If a photo was not to his liking, he would not simply set it aside — he would puncture the negative with a hole puncher, 'killing' it."

Photographer Edwin Rosskam declared, "[The] punching of holes through negatives was barbaric to me... I’m sure that some very significant pictures have in that way been killed off, because there is no way of telling, no way, what photograph would come alive when."

Beyond tragic...