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Photographs Show How US Has Changed

A new exhibit of photographs shows how much the United States changed from the early 1900s to the middle of the 20th century.

One photograph, for example, captures a loving moment between a mother and her child. Another shows workers at the Empire State Building in New York City.

The exhibit has more than 130 pictures in all. The show is called “American Moments.” It can be seen through the middle of September at The Phillips Collection in Washington, DC.

The photographs were made from the 1930s to the 1960s. This was a time of great social, economic and technological change. The pictures were taken by some of the best-known photographers in the country.

Renée Maurer organized the exhibit.

“While putting the show together we realized that, you know, there was a story that could be told that reflected time, place and experience in America. Most of these photographs are from (the) mid-20th century. The themes reveal different ideas, different moments of change.”

Esther Bubley was a photojournalist. Renée Maurer told VOA Ms. Bubley used her camera to show the changing responsibilities of women in the workplace during the 1950s.

“I think it was the type of photographer that Esther Bubley was. She was always interested in, really, the human condition and how she could capture that in a photograph.”

Ms. Bubley took many pictures of people riding on buses. Bus travel increased greatly during World War II because the government limited the amount of gasoline Americans could buy, and the number of tires for civilian use. The military needed fuel and rubber for the war effort.

Photographers Bruce Davidson and Louis Faurer took pictures of people on buses, cars and trains. Ms. Maurer says Mr. Davidson also took many pictures showing poor people and the civil rights struggle in the segregated South.

“He wanted to really show America what was still going on in the 60s, and really ask America: ‘Is this something that we can still tolerate?’ It was important for him to, to show, you know, his audience that there’s still a lot of work left to do.”

Renée Maurer hopes the American Moments exhibit will give people a better understanding of a time when the United States was experiencing major change.

I’m Christopher Jones-Cruise.

VOA Correspondent Julie Taboh reported this story from Washington. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted it for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.


Words in This Story

exhibit – n. a collection of objects that have been put in a public space for people to look at; a show

reflect – v. to show (something); to make (something) known

theme(s) – n. a subject or issue that is discussed often or repeatedly

reveal – v. to show plainly or clearly; to make (something that was hidden) able to be seen

segregated – adj. describing people of different races who are forcibly separated from one another

tolerate – v. to let something exist, happen or be done

audience – n. the people who watch, read, look at or listen to something; a crowd

Have you seen photographs that show what your country looked like many years ago? We want to hear from you. Write your thoughts in the comments section.

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