Jeff Allred


On his book American Modernism and Depression Documentary

Cover Interview of March 09, 2010

Editor’s note

Originally, this interview ran on the Rorotoko cover page under the headline

“The Depression documentary book is not so much an act of witness as a deconstruction of witness.”

We highlighted two quotes.

On the first page:

“Great Depression’s documentary books are part of the modernist aesthetic that coalesced in the interwar period.  In recounting the various traumas at work on the body politic, often in places geographically remote from cultural centers, artists confronted their audience with techniques borrowed from modernist literature and art—discontinuity between word and image, unannounced shifts in narrative perspective, and shockingly grotesque representations of otherwise familiar people, places, and things.”

On the second:

“Time Inc. publications, no less than the avant-garde work of the period, experimented with new media and new ways of combining images and text.  But they did so to nearly opposite political ends, constructing a world in which “we Americans” is a product rather than a process, an answer rather than a question, and outside of history rather than continually produced within it.”