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Barnstorming the PrairiesHow Aerial Vision Shaped the Midwest$
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Jason Weems

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780816677504

Published to Minnesota Scholarship Online: September 2016

DOI: 10.5749/minnesota/9780816677504.001.0001

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Managerial Mosaics

Managerial Mosaics

New Deal Aerial Photography and the Marshaling of Rural America

(p.45) 2 Managerial Mosaics
Barnstorming the Prairies

Jason Weems

University of Minnesota Press

Chapter 2 focuses on the impact of aviation-empowered aerial imagery, particularly aerial photographs, on the modern “revision” of Midwestern land and identity during the interwar years. In particular, I focus on three clusters of Midwestern aerial photographs: high-altitude instrumentalist survey views taken by the federal government as a part of New Deal land-management initiatives; narrative oblique views created by social documentary photographers of the government’s Farm Security Administration (FSA); and journalistic aerial views created by the era’s preeminent popular magazine, Life. In each case, these images served as both instigator and foil for newly emergent conditions of modern agricultural production and everyday life and thereby elucidate the ways that various hegemonic institutions (from the government to the mass media) employed aerial vision as a means to invent the Midwest in a new, modern aspect. At the same time, the range of responses to the photographs articulates the complex and contradictory ways that, in the eyes of skilled everyday viewers, aerial gazes both envisioned new configurations and buttressed older orders of Midwestern experience.

Keywords:   Aerial imagery, Aviation, Modern Midwest, New Deal, Farm Security Administration, Life magazine, Aerial vision

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