ISM Exhibit Features the Work of ‘Sociologists With Cameras’

In 1935, in order to generate support for New Deal reforms, the Historical Division of the Farm Security Administration — and later the Office of War Information — began making photographic surveys of economic struggle and social dislocation in Depression-era America — including such themes as religious life.

“Picturing Faith: Religious America in Governmental Photography,” an exhibition featuring 45 black-and-white images by these “sociologists with cameras,” will be on view Jan. 19-Feb. 26 at the Institute of Sacred Music, 409 Prospect St.

The “sociologists with cameras” whose works are on display in the exhibition include well-known photographers Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange and Gordon Parks.

The show is centered around four themes: “Religion and Photography,” illustrating the various techniques that photographers use to express the religious spirit; “Poverty and Religion,” documenting the religious life of the poor; “Celebrating America’s Communal Spirit,” demonstrating how photography was used to support America’s entry into World War II; and “Faith Without People,” showing how photographers depicted religion through images of empty churches and synagoges.

The traveling exhibition was curated by Colleen McDannell of the University of Utah, and is supported by a grant from the Lilly Endowment. The Yale Divinity School also provided support for the campus installation.

There will be an opening reception for the show 4:30-6 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 21, in the Great Hall of the Institute of Sacred Music. The public is invited.

The exhibition is open for public viewing weekdays 9 a.m.-4 p.m. For more information, visit

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