Portrait of America: Survey Graphic in the ThirtiesHomeIntroductionEditor's NotesArticlesReading


Guiding Questions


1930s Resources

1930s Timeline


Capturing the "Real
Images published in Survey Graphic differed, sometimes markedly, from the idealistic images published in many mainstream media publications in the 1930s. [11]

The editors of Survey Graphic chose to publish photographs of migrant families and the unemployed at a time when the editors of New Yorker filled their pages with photographs of wealthy men and women at social gatherings. "In no other decade," Stott claims, "was the American press so out of step with its audience." [12]

Survey Graphic offered an alternative vision of America, one shaped by the philosophy of its editors, and by the social documentary work of Hine, Van Loon, and the FSA photographers.

"Pageants Out of Problems"
The magazine's overall outlook was positive. "We have made pageants out of problems," noted Paul Kellogg at a banquet dinner celebrating twenty years of Survey Associates. [13]

The Kelloggs did not restrict articles and images to those about hard times in America. The magazine frequently published articles and photo essays about positive aspects of life in the 1930s.

ERB MusiciansThe Kelloggs admired the government's numerous arts projects and published photo essays on music and theater productions, including one on the musicians behind the Emergency Relief Bureau concerts (August 1935). There were also numerous collages of Federal Arts Project murals such as John Steuart Curry's "The Last Frontier" (April 1935).

Some of the more uplifting images of the FSA photography unit received attention in "American Faces" (February 1939). The Kelloggs also published many of Lewis Hine's work portraits, which emphasized more positive aspects of work in American industries (May 1937).

Using documentary writing and photography, the editors, writers, and artists of Survey Graphic presented a portrait of America that demonstrated their faith in social planning, their commitment to public education, and their interest in the human variety that made up the nation. These commitments are evident in the stories they published and in the photographs they selected to accompany them.

Kay Davis, M.A.
University of Virginia
Spring 2001


[1]Paul Kellogg, "Team Play," Survey Graphic, 26 (12), December 1937, 619-621.

[2] Cara Finnegan, Social Welfare and Visual Politics: The Story of Survey Graphic.

[3] Clarke Chambers, Seedtime of Reform: American Social Service and Social Action, 1918-1933 (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1971), 264.

[4] "Kellogg, Paul Underwood (1879-1958)," Encyclopedia of Social Work, 931.

[5] Otis L. Graham Jr., An Encore for Reform: The Old Progressives and the New Deal (New York: Oxford University Press, 1967), 109.

[6] Paul Kellogg, "Our Twenty Years of Survey Associates," Survey Graphic, 22 (4), April 1933, 4.

[7] Urban and Urbane: The New Yorker Magazine in the 1930s.

[8] William Stott, Documentary Expression and Thirties America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1973), 143.

[9] Elizabeth McCausland, Documentary Photography, Photo Notes, January 1939.

[10] Lawrence W. Levine, "The Historian and the Icon: Photography and the History of the American People in the 1930s and 1940s," in Documenting America, 1935-1943, eds. Carl Fleischhauer and Beverly W. Brannan (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988), 33.

[11] James Guimond compares and contrasts thirties hard-times images and idyllic images of the American Dream in American Photography and the American Dream (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1991).

[12] Stott, 78.

[13] Paul Kellogg, "People Like Ourselves: A Forecast for Survey Graphic," Survey Graphic, November 1935.


Kay Davis, University of Virginia, © 2001-2003