Washington, D.C. Sunday cyclists watching sailboats

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Artist Statement


Marjory Collins’ Washington D.C. cyclists offers a rare glimpse into life on the home front during World War II. The image evokes a lingering nostalgia for the simplicity of youth gone by, and calls to mind lazy, languid summer days. It also provides a curious juxtaposition between the tranquility of the scene set before us, and the brutality of a war raging across the Atlantic; the boys in the photo watch toy sailboats pass by as warships patrol the coasts. The particular magic of this photograph is that despite the rather sobering historical context surrounding it, Collins was able to create an image that fills the viewer with a wave of tranquility. You can almost feel the calm, warm wind that once blew through these willow branches.


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Marjory Collins described herself as a "rebel looking for a cause." She began her photojournalism career in New York City in the 1930s by working for such magazines as PM and U.S. Camera. At a time when relatively few women were full-time magazine photographers, such major photo agencies as Black Star, Associated Press, PIX, and Time, Inc., all represented her work.

In 1941, Collins joined Roy Stryker's team of photographers at the U.S. Office of War Information to document home front activities during World War II. She created remarkable visual stories of small town life, ethnic communities, and women war workers. The more than 3,000 images she took in 1942-43 are preserved in the Farm Security Administration / Office of War Information Collection at the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

After World War II, Collins combined three careers--photographer, editor, and writer. She traveled internationally as a freelance photographer for both the U.S. government and the commercial press. She also participated in social and political causes and was an active feminist who founded the journal Prime Time (1971-76) "for and by older women." Her study of the role of older women in society resulted in an M.A. degree in American Studies from Antioch College West in 1984, shortly before her death from cancer in 1985 in San Francisco.

– Library of Congress