A group of semi-anonymous photographers, shooting 4×5 chromes for the Office of War Information, made some of the most incredible portraits of ordinary Americans that I’ve ever seen. One in particular, named Alfred Palmer, deserves his own mini-retrospective. Click for full-size images; they have to be seen big to be appreciated.

October 1942. Workers installing fixtures and assemblies in the tail section of a B-17F bomber at the Douglas Aircraft Company plant in Long Beach, California. 4x5 Kodachrome transparency by Alfred Palmer.













Most are images of men and women at work on the war effort—Rosie the Riveter gals, men operating heavy machinery, servicemen and -women. There are (according to the Library of Congress, which has the collection) 164,000 in black-and-white and 1,600 in color.

October 1942. "Noontime rest for an assembly worker at the Long Beach, Calif., plant of Douglas Aircraft Company. Nacelle parts for a heavy bomber form the background." 4x5 Kodachrome transparency by Alfred Palmer.

Is that Scarlett Johansson?

October 1942. "Lieutenant 'Mike' Hunter, Army test pilot assigned to Douglas Aircraft Company, Long Beach, California." 4x5 Kodachrome transparency by Alfred Palmer for the Office of War Information.

October 1942. Engine installers at Douglas Aircraft in Long Beach, California. 4x5 Kodachrome transparency by Alfred Palmer.









Is that her hipster Williamsburg boyfriend?









Quite a few of them were shot with some kind of foreground illumination, meaning that the backgrounds fall into nearly solid black, giving these the quality of dramatic set-pieces, but as far as I know they’re all documentary.






Access to the full collection here; Shorpy page here; a nice selection, assembled and presented by a Russian fan, here.

One Response to Government-Issue Kodachrome, 1942-1943

  1. Suntree says:

    Forever overrated, it sepkid only the red, green and blue colors, leaving those in between spots on the color wheel to fend for themselves. Agfachrome always, always had the best skin tones, no matter the color of skin.Fawning for Kodachrome began in earnest with the introduction of Ektachrome, which traded image quality for the ability to get processing done either in a local lab or, damn!, do-it-yourself. That’s local if you didn’t live in LA, WDC, or Rochester.Ektachrome made Kodachrome look soooooooo good!If I’m not mistaken, there are several PS actions for sale out there that mimic the K look.So no tears from this old head.-g

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