Photos used in the website by John Vachon, courtesy of the Library of Congress
By William Attewell
Using a keen eye and his camera John Vachon documented life in the early days of the Village of Greendale for the Farm Security Administration. His vivid black and white photographs provide us with an invaluable and unique insight to everyday life in Greendale in 1939.
It is a true treat to see Vachon’s historic visual images of the Village of Greendale and they are preserved by the Library of Congress. I encourage you to see them for yourself, simply Click Here and then enter “Greendale” into the search field.
Born in 1914 in St. Paul, Michigan Vachon originally worked as a filing clerk for the Farm Security Administration. There Roy Stryker, the head of the Information Division of the Farm Security Administration was ever evangelical about his agency’s photographs and urged Vachon: “When you do the filing, why don’t you look at the pictures.”
By 1937 Vachon had looked enough to want to make photographs himself. In October and November 1938, Vachon traveled to Nebraska on his first extensive solo trip. He photographed agricultural programs on behalf of the FSA’s regional office and pursued an extra assignment from Stryker: The city of Omaha.
In 1939 he traveled to Wisconsin where he took photographs of the iconic Greendale original homes and village life
The hallmark of his style of photography is the portrayal of people and places encountered on the street, unembellished by the beautifying contrivances used by calendar and public relations photographers.
Following his stint at the FSA, Vachon continued his photography career, working for the United Nations and magazines such as “Life” and “Look.” He died in 1975 in New York City.