It might be fair to say, then, that the stories that the FSA strove to tell, the feelings they wanted to capture, were cultural myths. Alan Trachtenberg argues, of the previous shooting script,

an amalgam of social science (geography, ethnography, sociology), New Deal politics, and liberal reformism, the passage is a virtual scenario: it implies a narrative, a chapter in that master story of the 'history of mankind'... it bears the mark of cultural myth... (Trachtenberg 62)

He is suggesting that before the photos were produced they had a story they were intended to tell. The quality of narration in the shooting scripts translated into the product, the images, as well. Trachtenberg is making an important point about the relationship between cultural myth and narrative here...

Stryker was quite open about the fact that the FSA photographs created narratives. "Our kind of photography," he said, "is the adjective and adverb. The newspicture is a single frame; ours is a subject viewed in series. The newspicture is dramatic, all subject and action. Ours shows what's in back of the action. It is a broader statement- frequently a mood, an accent, but more frequently a sketch and not infrequently a story" (Fleischhauer and Brannan 9). He highlights here a distinction between the single image (identified here with the newspicture) and the more evocative sketches of the FSA, involving a series of images. Though this passage is instructive in articulating the relationship Stryker saw between a mood and a sketch (an informal story), it may mask some of the realities of the FSA's representational program.



Juliet Gorman, May 2001