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This photo book gem Fair Is Our Land designed and edited by Samuel Chamberlain is quasi forgotten today. It really belongs in that category called photo book history for a number of reasons. Number one is its age, published in 1942. Number two, it was a book published with a “patriotic” sense, and at the same time a documentary of fleeting history and understood as such by the writer/artist Samuel Chamberlain who also edited the book.

The book had a tremendous number of artists and photographers present in it. Eighty of them in all, from a very varied background and working in different styles such as abstractionists, pictorialists, salon exhibitors and architectural specialists.

Here is a quotation from the Editor’s note: “This volume seeks to portray the beauty of the American countryside, at a time when the preservation of this fair land, and all that it stands for, is uppermost in the minds of all Americans. It is the picture of a peaceful America that awaits the returning soldier and sailor, serene and comforting. (what a difference compared with today). It does not encompass the might of our cities nor the dynamic energy of our industry. That is a theme for a book in itself. Above all, it is not a state by state encyclopedia of scenic wonders. Its objective is to distill the essence of rural America. The work of more than eighty etchers and photographers has been selected to give an unforgettable impression of this bright land. Their eloquent pictures speak for themselves, without the need of an interlocutor”.

What kind of pictures, stupendous pictures not with standing the relative small size of the book (7.5 inches w x 9.5 inches h) which make it feel crowded by today’s standards of over sized folio type coffee table books.

A lot of photos were made for the Farm Security Administration (FSA) in the 30’s and it would be an interesting task to find out how many of these pictures were published in earlier publications. But that is for now beyond the scope of this post.

Some of the artists are: Vachon, Rothstein, Cedric Wright, Ray Atkeson, Josef Muench, Grant Duggins, Marion Post Wolcott, Ernest Knee, Will Connell, Laura Gilpin.

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