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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Depressing times and title, 4 Feb. 2013
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This review is from: The Dust Bowl Through the Lens: How Photography Revealed and Helped Remedy a National Disaster (Hardcover)
I was rather disappointed with this book as it really doesn't live up to the title: Dust Bowl. Only the first thirty pages cover these extraordinary times in the southern Plains states, the remainder of the book deals with the Depression in the rest of the country.

The photographic aspect of the Dust Bowl is no more than twenty or so specific photos. Others are captioned to give the impression that they relate to the book's subject but don't: page five has a whole page of the famous Migrant Mother photo. She was called Florence Thompson and left Oklahoma for California in 1925; a Ben Shahn photo on page thirty-two was taken in Arkansas; John Vachon's wonderful photo of four children and a baby on page forty is from 1940 in Missouri; page fifty-five has a young boy in a field, photographed in Oregon, 1939; the elderly laughing couple on page eighty-three was taken in Connecticut in 1940; a colour photo of contour ploughing was taken in Tennessee. All these photos are from the FSA collection in the Library of Congress and they were meticulously captioned yet the author has chosen to leave out where they were taken and the dates. On page thirty-four there are four small reproductions of Norman Rockwell's 'Four Fredoms' paintings, the copy suggests they were inspired by a thirties speech given to Congress by President Roosevelt but they were painted in 1943, long after Depression (and especially the Dust Bowl) had ended and the Nation was back to full employment for the war effort.

Another disappointment with the book is the presentation. No doubt the editors thought a book for a young audience should look as colourful as possible but unfortunately here it means that many superb photos have been printed in a colour rather than leaving them in black and white. Photos printed in green, blue or brown just lose their impact (and in several examples their detail). The book's format of having just one image on the right-hand page with the text and smaller photos on the left-hand page is rather restrictive to get the best out of the photos throughout the book. Oddly the last page in the book has a graphic map of the US and a shape on the relevant States to show the extent of the Dust Bowl, surely this should have been in the front pages.

As possible educational title I think this one is rather lacking and doesn't make the best use of powerful photos that captured the feel of the Depression thirties.
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Robin Benson
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