In 1935, Roy Stryker, director of the Historical Section of the Resettlement Administration/Farm Security Administration (RA/FSA), hired some of the best professional photographic artists in the United States to document socioeconomic conditions of the Great Depression. Many of these RA/FSA images became icons of despair and catalysts for the social and economic reforms of the New Deal era. But there is a subset of photographs within the FSA archive that proposed a new American way of life: images of the Greenbelt communities that were constructed by the U.S. government in the late 1930s. In this article I argue that the images of the Greenbelt Towns were made to depict cooperation and prosperity, attributes not commonly associated with the work of the RA/FSA photographers. They present a utopian vision of architecture and community in America that challenged the economic ethos of individualism. My methods will include an analysis of RA/FSA photographs of the three Greenbelt towns, and I will compare them to photographs that have come to emblematize what the RA/FSA file represents. My treatment will complicate common assumptions about FSA photography and consider the historical and pictorial narrative of the Greenbelt program as a practical attempt at utopia in America.

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