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Picturing FaithPhotography and the Great Depression$

Colleen McDannell

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780300104301

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: October 2013

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300104301.001.0001

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(p.303) Acknowledgments

(p.303) Acknowledgments

Source:
Picturing Faith
Publisher:
Yale University Press

When I began working with Farm Security Administration photographs, I had to travel to Washington, D.C., to work with the prints and the microfilmed lots of pictures. It was a slow process, looking through the filing cabinets and scrolling through microfilm at the Library of Congress. The staff of the Prints and Photograph Division made all those trips worthwhile. In particular, I would like to thank Beverly Brannan, the curator of photography, who shared her expertise on Roy Stryker and his team, and Mary Ison, who got me prints when all else failed. Now most of the FSA/OWI negatives are online, and anyone can search them using keywords. This digitizing not only made my work much easier, it has opened up the file for wider use by the general public. I am thankful that the federal government—at least this time—has spent my tax money in such a wise way. Without the groundbreaking books of Jack Hurley and James Curtis this one would not be possible. Both scholars of the FSA/OWI project helped during the conceptualizing and writing of Picturing Faith. Jack Hurley's perceptive suggestions on improving the final manuscript saved me from making several incorrect conclusions.

Getting to Washington and to the places where the photographers traveled was made possible by a grant from the Lilly Endowment. Lilly funded the Material History of American Religion Project, which supported three years of research and scholarly conversation. Under the direction of James Hudnut-Beumler, I was able to discuss my work with Marie Griffith, Bob Orsi, Dan Sack, Leigh Schmidt, David Watt, Judith Weisenfeld, and Diane Winston. (p.304) When Dan first called me about the project, I was heavy with child, confined to bed, and wondering whether I could survive motherhood. All I could manage to promise was a short book with some pictures. With the group's critical comments, however, I eventually understood the potential of the photographs for rethinking American religions during the interwar years.

A special thank you goes to Jim Hudnut-Beumler, who permitted me to use project funds to curate an exhibition of forty-five of the FSA/OWI religious photographs. Gary Wickard, one of our history graduate students, was invaluable in the design and construction of the exhibition. Now in its fourth year, the exhibition has traveled to twenty-five colleges and museums in the United States and Europe. I mounted a smaller exhibition of photographs of southern religion at Emory University in Atlanta. Given how difficult it is to secure funding for such exhibitions, I want to thank all of those who have hosted both the photographs and their curator. As I lectured on the exhibition, audiences raised questions that forced me to clearly articulate the relationship between visual culture, religion, and history.

The pictures led me across the United States, where I worked in regional archives and interviewed people who attended the photographed churches and synagogues. A John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship made all of this possible. “Being there” was a vital part of the project, and I was continually struck by the hospitality of community people, librarians, archivists, religious leaders, and scholars. I have tried to acknowledge each of you in the notes, but if I have missed someone, please forgive my omission. Likewise, I relied on the special expertise of my friends who read individual chapters with their red pens in hand. Thank you: Dianne Ashton, Wallace Best, Jim Fisher, Peter Gardella, Bob Goldberg, Linda Gordon, Paul Harvey, David Igler, Gary Laderman, Harris Lenowitz, Shannon Miller, Vanessa Ochs, Roger Payne, Steve Prothero, and Kathryn Stockton. Will Gravely not only read the chapter on the South, he let me stay in his wonderful house in Liberty, South Carolina. Julie Ingersoll and Paul Croce also let me lounge about in their cozy homes in Florida. Lillian Wondrack fed me in Connecticut. Such hospitality throughout the country enabled me to get a sense of what the FSA/OWI photographers experienced in their peregrinations.

Back in Utah there were many supporters. Margaret Toscano's warm friendship carried me through the whole project. She reassured me that if she could raise four daughters while teaching and writing, surely I could manage one. I do not know how Margaret found the time to carefully read the entire manuscript, but I am glad that she did. A University of Utah Research Committee Grant funded travel to Chicago and to Washington, D.C. Holly Campbell at the Tanner Humanities Center graciously let me transform their meeting room into an art gallery for the first exposure of the Picturing Faith exhibition. As I completed the project, funding from the Humanities Center enabled our Religious Studies Research Interest Group to hear about the book over takeout Indian curry. The University of Utah Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program funded students who worked both on the exhibition and on the book. Bryan Olsen, Julieanne Sabula, and Meg Spencer not only were efficient and insightful; they always were cheerful, even on the gloomy days. Reid Sondrup in the Multimedia Center found obscure videos from the thirties, and Roger Newbold made slides and photographs. Given how overburdened our staff is in these days of university budget cuts, I want to acknowledge their care and attention.

The origin of this project occurred with the origin of Brigit Hurdle McDannell. Now (p.305) a third-grader, she is just exploring the joys and tribulations of reading and writing. While words are grand, she and I share a preference for pictures, an inclination I hope she never loses. I have dedicated this book to Brigit's favorite playmates—my parents, Kenneth and Margaret Mary McDannell. They lived through both the Great Depression and World War II, and it is their generation that this book is about. As my mother read through and corrected my drafts, I was often encouraged by her comment, “I remember this.” I truly appreciate the love and sacrifices of both generations of McDannells.

After I finish each book, I swear I will never write another one. And after each such pledge, John Hurdle rolls his eyes and wags his head. He realizes that he will never be free from book conversations or reading endless manuscript drafts. After thirty years of marriage and an even longer friendship, there is not much that he hasn't done to foster my creativity and independence. In my first book, I explained that I would be “forever in his debt.” Friends warned me that publishing such sentiments might be risky given the fragility of modern romance. I continue to stand by that declaration. Here is yet another book that would not have existed without your love. (p.306)