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FSA-OWI: Ben Shahn

By Marc Rochkind

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This app shows over 1500 photographs taken by Ben Shahn for the Farm Security Administration (FSA) from 1935 to 1941.

You can view photos in an adjustable-size grid (with complete Library of Congress captions), one-by-one, and as a slideshow. You can also navigate to the LoC record for each image, save it to the Photo Library, or order a print.

Shahn was more than just a remarkably talented Farm Security Administration (FSA) photographer—he helped shape the FSA's whole approach. As the Library of Congress's essay on Shahn recounts:

"Once, Shahn recalled in 1964, he had explained to [FSA head] Stryker that a certain photograph of soil erosion would not have a strong impact on viewers. 'Look Roy,' Shahn said, 'you're not going to move anybody with this eroded soil--but the effect this eroded soil has on a kid who looks starved, this is going to move people.'"

Shahn was born in Lithuania in 1898 and emigrated to New York at the age of 6. He started his career as a commercial lithographer, and had become an established muralist and artist by the time he joined the FSA in 1935. He learned the basics of photography from Walker Evans, with whom he shared a studio. While Shahn never considered the camera as more than a note-taking device for his paintings, there's ample evidence in the photos shown by this app that he was an excellent photographer.

Shahn believed that his art should be used to advance his political and social agenda, a view that fit perfectly with the spirit of the FSA under Roy Stryker.

I've arranged the photos here by location. Most of the photos are smaller than the iPad screen, but still large enough to enjoy and study. About 300 of them are larger, so I've repeated them in the Large Photos group so you can view just them if you want.

Start with a slideshow of the Large Photos group (a few are shown in the screenshots), and you'll be convinced that Ben Shahn's FSA photos are indeed exceptional.


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FSA-OWI: Ben Shahn
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This app is designed for both iPhone and iPad
  • $1.99
  • Category: Photo & Video
  • Released: Jun 09, 2011
  • Version: 1
  • Size: 4.5 MB
  • Language: English
  • Seller: Marc Rochkind
Rated 12+ for the following:
  • Infrequent/Mild Alcohol, Tobacco, or Drug Use or References

Compatibility: Requires iOS 4.0 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.

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