Marjory Collins

Figure 13. Marjory Collins, “Woman operating an axle lathe at the New York Car Wheel Company,”1943. Source: Library of Congress

Figure 14. Marjory Collins, “Woman learning to operate an axle lathe at the New York Car Wheel Company, 1943,”  Source: Library of Congress

Figure 15. Marjory Collins, “Buffalo, New York. Italian-American woman eating her lunch brought from home in the shop at the New York Car Wheel Company," 1943. Source: Library of Congress

Figure 16. Marjory Collins, "Buffalo, New York. Tired swingshift workers sitting on the sidelines at the swingshift dance held weekly from midnight to 4 a.m. at the Main-Utica ballroom, 1943,” original LOC. See also, from the same series, this shot of the same couple and this bold artistic image.


One standout exception – and a relatively unrecognized photographer – was Marjory Collins whose Buffalo series brilliantly documents the entry of women into defense production in the early years of World War II (see figures 13 and 14).

Collins’ shop floor photographs are valuable for the way they depict motion and worker interactivity (including across lines of race), and her work on laborers’ social and cultural lives is notable for its capturing of intimacy and conviviality in the working-class neighborhoods that surrounded the plants (see figures 15 and 16). Collins’ background in magazine work may have predisposed her toward visual essays that captured the human dimension of industrial work, but equally as important was the timing of her government employment. She joined federal photographic ranks in 1942, just as the FSA shifted its focus to documenting the war effort on the home front, and photographing the “arsenal of democracy” in action was a priority for the rechristened Office of War Information.[1]

View more of Collin's FSA photographs. An essay on her Buffalo and Western New York work is forthcoming.


1. Collins worked for PM and US Camera in the 1930s, see Andrea Fisher, Let Us Now Praise Famous Women: Women Photographers for the US Government 1935 to 1944 (London: Pandora, 1987); see also the brief biographical sketch that is part of the FSA/OWI digital collection.