Holes Punched Through History

In 1935, Roy Stryker became the head of the Information Division of the U.S. government’s Farm Security Administration (FSA), documenting work done by the government to help poor farmers and their families during the Great Depression. Over the course of a decade, the scope of the FSA’s photographic subjects broadened, then transitioned to a war footing in the 1940s, becoming part of the Office of War Information. The resulting collection of more than 175,000 images remains a national treasure—a snapshot of American life during a difficult time. In the early years, Stryker himself reviewed and edited photographs mailed in by FSA photographers, and would often “kill” a photo he disapproved of (remove it from consideration for publishing) by punching a hole right through the negative. The photographers were unhappy with this destructive hole-punch method, and frequently let Stryker know, but he didn’t stop until about 1939. Recent digitization efforts have made nearly all of the FSA/OWI photos available to the public, showing defects, hole-punches, and all. Some of the punched images were duplicates, but many were unique, and are now lost.

Read more
Hints: View this page full screen. Skip to the next and previous photo by typing j/k or ←/→.

Most Recent

  • Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

    Photos of the Week: Snowy Ladybug, Shattered Lance, Mexican Smog

    Engineering fashion in Beijing, a luxury houseboat for rising seas, flooding in Paraguay, the Giro d’Italia cycling race in Italy, Buddha’s-birthday observations in Taiwan, skateboarding in Los Angeles, and much more

  • adoc-photos / Corbis via Getty

    100 Years Ago in Photos: A Look Back at 1919

    Please take a moment to look back at some of the events and sights from around the world a century ago.

  • Kevin Frayer / Getty

    Photos of Huawei’s European-Themed Campus in China

    The Ox Horn research and development campus is being developed as 12 separate “towns,” with research buildings being modeled after famous castles, palaces, and more.

  • Ye Aung Thu / AFP / Getty

    Photos of the Week: Lion Rescue, Chihuahua Run, Dinosaur Debut

    Uber protests in Los Angeles, freedom for Reuters reporters in Myanmar, Met Gala appearances in New York, Ramadan prayers in Indonesia, art among ruins on a Greek isle, missiles over Israel and Gaza, artworks displayed at the Venice Biennale, and much more