In 1942 OWI photographers supported the war effort by showing Americans making the rapid transitions that mobilization required. In September of that year members of OWI's photographic unit made images for instructional filmstrips on how to grow victory gardens and how to put up fruits and vegetables. They photographed people doing war mobilization work in shipyards, government offices, and factories. They took photo sets to accompany magazine articles on high school students learning civil defense skills, on newly enlisted soldiers adapting to life on base, and on migratory farm workers in West Virginia and upper New York State. OWI photos from September also show miners at the Anaconda Company in Montana, and fishermen in Gloucester, Massachusetts. There are images of the Grand Coolee Dam, of the launching of the S.S. Booker T. Washington, and of a lone sheepherder and his dog in the western mountains.
Marjory Collins' photos of September, 1942, were all taken in New York City. They show people waiting for trains on the Third Avenue El, relaxing on a sunny Sunday in Central Park, at work to prepare the daily editions of the New York Times, and meeting at a convention of maritime workers. Where the other OWI photographs tend to show a nation that is resolute in its determination to win the war, the ones Collins achieve another purpose: they tend to counter enemy propaganda that portrayed the US as a divided society run by gangsters and plutocrats where blacks and other minorities are kept in servitude and the poor are forced hopelessly to endure miserable conditions.
Here are some of them, all from collections in the Library of Congress. See whether you agree that they show a diverse society that has racial, economic, and cultural divisions but none so great as to threaten the nation's ability to achieve its war aims. Where enemy propaganda argued that only totalitarian regimes were able to control social conflict and prevent violence between the parties of the Left and Right, the photos that Collins took reveal a society where divisions exist but are nowhere near so sharp as to threaten the stability of the nation.
1. The New York Times. A few years ago I made a blog post of these images: NYT Sept 1942. Here's a shot from that set.
2. In August, Collins had taken photos in the 34th Street station of the Pennsylvania Railroad. In September she photographed the 34th Street bus terminal. Here are a couple of images from that assignment.
Detail from this image:
3. She spent a warm and hazy Sunday afternoon taking photos in Central Park.
4. Early one morning she took the 3rd Ave. El from 94th St. down to 13th.
5. On what seems to have been the same shoot, she took photos in the vicinity of 3rd Ave and 14th St.
6. She also photographed activities in a Greenwhich Village salon.
7. She attended a convention of the Marine and Shipbuilding workers' union. Unfortunately, only low resolution scans are available from that assignment.