The Faces Behind the Camera: Tin-type Photographers from the Great Depression Era

We spent some time today browsing the fabulous archives of the Farm Security Administration and Office of War Information (FSA-OWI) and, as we have a love of all things photography, decided to share some images of tin-type street photographers as we’ve often see their results but rarely seen the faces behind their cameras.

Tin-type photographer at Morrisville, Vermont fair. Carl Mydans, August 1936.
Tin-type photographer at Morrisville, Vermont fair. Carl Mydans, August 1936.

It’s a fascinating insight into how the photographers displayed their sample portraits and we noticed several photographers hands and aprons showing the tell-tale stains of wet plate photography and others retouching their images. Anyway without further ado, here are some more great images of street photographers hard at work selling their portraits:

Street photographer. Smithfield, North Carolina. Arthur Rothstein, October 1936.
Street photographer. Smithfield, North Carolina. Arthur Rothstein, October 1936.
Itinerant photographer in Columbus, Ohio. Ben Shahn, August 1938.
Itinerant photographer in Columbus, Ohio. Ben Shahn, August 1938.
Wife of travelling photographer tinting small portraits, NAtional Rice Festival, Crowley, Louisiana. Russell Lee, October 1938.
Wife of travelling photographer tinting small portraits, NAtional Rice Festival, Crowley, Louisiana. Russell Lee, October 1938.
Itinerant photographer's stand, state fair, Donaldsonville, Louisiana. Russell Lee, November 1938.
Itinerant photographer’s stand, state fair, Donaldsonville, Louisiana. Russell Lee, November 1938.
Travelling photographer making a sale outside warehouse where tobacco auctions are being held. Durham, North Carolina. Marion Post Wolcott, November 1939.
Travelling photographer making a sale outside warehouse where tobacco auctions are being held. Durham, North Carolina. Marion Post Wolcott, November 1939.
Spectators at horse races, Warrenton, Virginia. Marion Post Wolcott, May 1941.
Spectators at horse races, Warrenton, Virginia. Marion Post Wolcott, May 1941.
Send your picture home. Cherry Blossom Festival, Washington, D.C. Martha McMillan Roberts, May 1941.
Send your picture home. Cherry Blossom Festival, Washington, D.C. Martha McMillan Roberts, May 1941.
Tintype photographer trying to make a sale at the Champlain Valley Exposition, essex Junction, Vermont. Jack Delano, August 1941.
Tintype photographer trying to make a sale at the Champlain Valley Exposition, Essex Junction, Vermont. Jack Delano, August 1941.
Essex Junction, Vermont. Tintype photographer at the Champlain Valley Exposition. Jack Delano, August 1941.
Essex Junction, Vermont. Tintype photographer at the Champlain Valley Exposition. Jack Delano, August 1941.
Props used by tintype photographer at the Champlain Valley Exposition, Essex Junction, Vermont. Jack Delano, August 1941.
Props used by tintype photographer at the Champlain Valley Exposition, Essex Junction, Vermont. Jack Delano, August 1941.
Tintype photographer at the World's Fair at Tunbridge, Vermont. Jack Delano, September 1941.
Tintype photographer at the World’s Fair at Tunbridge, Vermont. Jack Delano, September 1941.
Washington, D.C. Street photographer in front of the Capitol. Esther Bubley, March 1943.
Washington, D.C. Street photographer in front of the Capitol. Esther Bubley, March 1943.

Image creditsLibrary of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA/OWI Collection.

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