FSA Photography: Creating a Local Archive

In this lesson students will study the work of the Farm Security Administration photographers who documented the rural South during the Great Depression. They will consider the purpose and methods of the FSA photographers, how these are reflected in the photographs, and the value of the photographs as a historical resource. They will then take on the role of FSA photographers to create an archive of photographs of their local area.

Standards & Objectives

Learning objectives: 

The learner will:

  • Analyze a set of primary sources for insights into the lives of rural Southerners during the Depression.
  • Understand the purpose and methods used by the photographers of the FSA’s Historical Section
  • Create an archive of local photographs modeled on the FSA project as a resource for future use.
Essential and guiding questions: 
  • What do the FSA photographs reveal about rural life in the South during the Depression?
  • What can new photographs reveal to future researchers about life in Tennessee now?

Lesson Variations

Blooms taxonomy level: 
Extension suggestions: 
  • Use the images produced by the class to enhance a Google Earth map of your local area.
  • Upload the images to a Flickr account, and invite the community to contribute through comments and/or additional images.

Helpful Hints


  • Photograph Analysis Worksheet
  • Shooting Script Worksheet
  • Field Notes handout
  • Editing Worksheet
  • Digital cameras and photo editing software