Following the stock market crash of 1929, the Great Depression became the term used to describe the worldwide economic crisis of the 1930's. In the early 1930's, president Hoover attempted to fight this economic depression by establishing programs such as the Federal Reserve System and the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC). By 1932, little progress was made by Hoover's desperate attempts to "cure", in a sense, the American economy.
Franklin D. Roosevelt overwhelmingly won the presidential election of 1932, beating Herbert C. Hoover, by voicing demands to repeal the 18th Amendment, and at the same time promising a "New Deal" for the American population aimed at aiding depression relief efforts. Among FDR's "brain trust" of advisors were Raymond Moley, Rexford Tugwell, Henry Wallace, Harold Ickes, and Harry Hopkins. All were involved in implementing FDR's New Deal program. The Works Progress Administration (WPA) and the Farm Security Administration (FSA) were among the many programs established by the New Deal agenda.
The WPA and the FSA, unique to any other government funded project, employed artists to either construct public works, i.e. murals, architecture, or document the devastation caused by widespread economic depression. The FSA in particular became a milestone in the charts of photographic history. At no other point in American history has there been a government organization publicly funding a visual documentation of American life.
A man by the name of Roy Stryker was appointed to lead this pioneering project, funded by the FSA, of sending artists out into the towns, cities, and countryside of the United States. As a teaching assistant to Rexford Tugwell while a student at Columbia University, Roy Stryker continued to hold in high regard the thoughts and concerns of Rexford Tugwell (one may also want to recognize that FDR graduated from Columbia in 1905). This relationship, which is described in Maren Stange's article, "Symbols of Ideal Life: Social Documentary Photography Tugwell, Stryker, and the FSA Photography Project", continued throughout the time photographic artists such as Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans, Ben Shahn, Russell Lee, Arthur Rothstein (another Columbia graduate), Jack Delano, Gordon Parks, Marion Post Wolcott, John Collier Jr., and John Vachon worked for the FSA (i.e for the United States Government).
Many believe the FSA project to be the seminal promotional force at a time in photographic history considered to be the birth of documentary photography. However, even though an explosion of documentary style photographs were produced during the depression era with the financial support of the US government, photographers such as Lewis Hine preceded any of the photographers employed by the FSA with an exploration of documentary photography during the turn of the century; documenting various aspects of immigration as well as child labor during the industrial revolution.
Inexplicable to many is the purposeful exclusion of Lewis Hine by the Tugwell/Stryker team from FSA government employment at a time when Hine appeared to be a well established socially oriented documentary photographer and when Hine was feeling the financial effects of the Great Depression.
Many authors, critics, and historians allude, if not directly state, that Hine's reputation as an outspoken individualistic thinker threatened Tugwell and Stryker's ideal visions or goals of the FSA project. One may also note that like FDR, Stryker, Tugwell and Arthur Rothstein, Lewis W. Hine also graduated from Columbia University (in Sociology). Not to intentionally discredit FSA photographers from being outspoken individualistic thinkers, Hine's reputation, (more generally) Hine's life and career preceded any FSA photographer. And, most, if not all, of the fame the FSA photographers acquired came from the images constructed during the time these photographers were employed by the FSA.
References speculate that Hine's strong willed individualism may have been why from the start, from the beginnings of implementing a program that had never been attempted before, did Stryker choose to exclude Hine from employment. It seemed, with that decision, he chose to take on other established photographers/artists (instead of Hine) to unearth, or document the era of the Great Depression.
With government funding, Carl Mydans, Arthur Rothstein, Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans, and Ben Shahn, were among the first photographers to trek out amongst the American populous to record life during the depression. A year later, in 1936, Russell Lee (who was originally trained as a painter) came aboard the FSA staff to replace Carl Mydans, who thought a career move to join the staff of Life magazine was in his best interest. Photographers among the later group of FSAers hired included Marion Post Wolcott, Jack Delano, John Vachon, John Collier Jr., and as an intern/trainee- Gordon Parks. Theo Jung and Paul Carter were persons employed by the FSA for only a very brief period.
Lange, Evans, and Shahn, established artists in their own right, began to relay to the American public (as did all FSA photographers) the hardships of America's agricultural force through their artistic perspective. Pictures that these photographers took explained how the long-standing droughts affected tenant farmers, sharecroppers, and the landscape alike.
Upon reaching the American public, photographs distributed by the FSA, severely impacted the public by, in a sense, enabling one to study (almost first hand) a tenant farmer's pose, a sharecropper's frayed shirt, or the little details and textures adding to a way of life that denoted hope. In these pictures viewers could realize that hope, like the small light pieces of surface soil, had been blown away with one of the many dust storms. These photographs allowed the American public to see what and how relief funds were being used for. It can be argued that these photographs propagated the New Deal.
Although many researchers, critics, historians, art historians, and others each have an opinion about Stryker or Tugwell and the FSA as a whole, many refer to, or admit, that over the time period in which Lange, Evans, and Shahn worked for the FSA mistrust, or a mutual distaste, developed between Stryker/Tugwell and these three FSA photographers. This antagonism primarily concerned the ownership of images created during this time period. Lange, Evans, and Shahn, self established artists before the FSA, were disconcerted with government attempts to take full ownership of their photographic images and the context in which they were and would be displayed in the future if the government attempted to take full ownership of these images.
Ownership of FSA images is an ongoing discussion and has been argued back and forth by various critics and writers (many of which can be found in the bibliography, the web-site bibliography, or as various references from authors within this kit). Because the FSA was such a novel program, forever in the experimental stages, the fact that a clear cut plan, a devised objective defining the modes, needs, and wants of the FSA- was neglected from the onstart, may have led to the friction between Lange, Evans, Shahn and Tugwell/Stryker. Thus, resulting in the eventual short term employment of the three with the FSA. Lange, Evans, and Shahn were all part of the initial group of photographers employed by Stryker. Perhaps after these three photographers left, Stryker defined more thoroughly the objectives of the FSA. And, after that, hired photographers who he believed could fill the objectives of the FSA more explicitly.
Even though Russell Lee did acquire some art school training, he was not as prominent an artistic figure before the FSA as he became after he was employed by Roy Stryker. As for Arthur Rothstein, it appears as if the FSA was the first time he was able to, publicly, explore his creative side. Many authors suggest that the relationship between Rothstein/Lee and Stryker was a positive one. But, then again, the Museum of Modern Art never quite aggressively sought out the work of Lee and Rothstein as did they the work of Shahn, Lange and Evans. Does institutional public recognition change the artist photographer's relationship to his/her work, his/her negatives, his/her desired context of display (a question posed by Bill Johnson, one of the contributors to the book Observations)? This is a question that may only ever acquire an answer based on speculation from any particular researcher/inquisitor at any given time. After 1938, a new group of photographers joined the staff of the Farm Security Administration. Marion Post Wolcott was one of the two or three women employed by the FSA as a photographer. Wolcott was raised in an affluent home and is said to have been very close to her outspoken and socially conscious mother. Wolcott first studied photography at the University of Vienna and followed up her study of photography when she returned to the United States. Wolcott was hired by Stryker in 1938. From reading telegraph correspondences between Stryker and Wolcott, their relationship appeared playful and lighthearted.
John Vachon was hired by the FSA before 1940, but not as a photographer. Vachon, prior to becoming a photographer, worked in the Washington office doing clerical and cataloguing work for the FSA. Vachon's desire to try his hand at photography originated from time spent in the office filing negatives of the early FSA photographers. Vachon greatly admired the work of Walker Evans. It is said Vachon wanted to make prints "just like Evans". Not only did Vachon establish himself as a photographer during time spent in FSA employment, he also proved to be as descriptive, sensitive, and insightful a writer as photographer, influencing the life of Gordon Parks as well as many others.
Although Gordon Parks was never actually employed as a photographer for the FSA, or was given the title photographer, he did work as a trainee/intern for the Farm Security Administration photographing areas around Washington D.C. Parks went on to become a renowned photographer, artist, poet, composer, and author- among many other things.
Jack Delano, also having acquired art school training before being hired by Stryker in 1940, became a valuable asset to the Farm Security Administration photographic team, along with John Collier Jr. Both appear to be the least well-known of all the photographers mentioned above, which is difficult to understand considering the quality of work they produced. Perhaps late entrance into the FSA group may account for their lack of significant distinguished public recognition.
In the early 1940's funding for the FSA photography team decreased significantly. In 1942 Roy Stryker moved his team to the OWI (Office of War Information) hoping to save it from complete destruction. This move worked briefly, although his team of photographers eventually dissolved around the same year but not before creating a cataloguing system for preserving and studying the photographs of American history between 1935 to 1942.
After reading and discussing articles and books published about the Great Depression, the FSA, and Documentary Photography, as well as viewing the piles of photographs compiled by the FSA photographers, one may begin to consider how text may change or add to the original photographic intent. How can observers attempt to determine, for themselves, what issues are actually being explored through the photographer's eye, despite text, despite context of display etc. How does one begin to read an image? In addition to what may be included in a photographic image, what was excluded from the frame when the shutter release was pressed at a particular moment in time.
Do many of the FSA images fall under the category of documentary photography or simply propaganda pieces? Is there a clear-cut definition of documentary photography verses art photography, photojournalism, or propaganda? Does the fact that the FSA was constructed as a government funded program under FDR (the New Deal man) change these images from documentary photography, art photography, or photojournalism to propaganda? Serious answers to these questions have been debated by many scholars. Resulting from these debates are countless theories exploring the value of the photographic image. Examples of issues at hand may include: how content affects an image; what events and occurrences surrounding the construction of a photograph may mean to the image; the way in which (or extent to which) individual interpretation influences the reading of a photograph, etc. The field of photographic theory is wide, diverse, and expanding by the minute. Through visual images and the study of photographic theory one will immerse oneself into a variety of subjects extending one's developed learnt perspective of the world in which we live.
Farm Security Administration photographs are housed in the Library of Congress and are available for public viewing. All of the images are available online. http://www.loc.gov/rr/print/coll/052_fsa.html
Dorothea Lange was born in 1895 in Hoboken, NJ. She was raised by her mother, a librarian and social worker, after her father abandoned their family. A few years after her father left, Lange contracted polio. Between the years of 1912-1917 Dorothea Lange worked as a studio assistant. In 1917 she attended the Clarence White School at Columbia University. Lange worked in New York City in portrait salons (most notably that of Arnold Genthe) yet she was originally trained as a teacher. In 1918 she left to travel around the world but was cut short by a pickpocket in San Francisco who left her with only five dollars. Within months, Lange had set up her own portrait studio in San Francisco. In 1920 she married painter Maynard Dixon. Willard Van Dyke set up the first exhibition of Lange's work in 1934. Lange was divorced from Maynard Dixon in 1935 and married Paul Taylor, the same year she opened a studio in Berkley California. It is debated whether or not Lange was associated with the group f64 around 1934. Around this time, Lange was also working for the California Rural Rehabilitation Administration, as well as for the FSA under Roy Stryker between 1934-1939. A Guggenheim fellowship was awarded to Lange in 1941. In 1942, Lange and Taylor became the first to speak out about the relocation of Japanese Americans in California. Lange developed a series of stomach ulcers in 1945, the same year she covered the birth of the United Nations. During her lifetime she traveled to Venezuela, Ecuador, Ireland, and Egypt. In 1954 and 1955 Lange completed two essays for Life magazine: "Utah: Three Mormon Towns" along with photographer Ansel Adams and "Irish Country People" with her son Daniel. Lange also did some teaching at the San Francisco Art Institute. In 1964 Lange was diagnosed with terminal cancer of the esophagus and died in 1965.
Born in 1903, Walker Evans was educated at Philips Academy in Andover, at Williams College, and in Paris (in 1927) where he worked as an auditor. Evans also began photography around 1927, heavily influenced by Atget and the avant-garde of Paris in the 1920's. Evans created a series of New England architecture photographs in the 1920's. And, in the 1930's, he illustrated an edition of Hart Crane's The Bridge. Around 1933 Evans published photographs in Carlton Beal's The Crime of Cuba: Study of Life in a Dictatorship. Evans was one of many included in an exhibition at MoMA in 1934. In 1935, Evans produced 500 negatives of African Art. Between 1935-1937 Evans was employed by the FSA. Evans had a one man show in 1938, the same year of the publication of the book American Photographs. In 1940 Evans was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. About this same time, 1938-1941, Evans produced a series of photographs of anonymous subway riders. Along with James Agee, Walker Evans published the book entitled Let Us Now Praise Famous Men in 1941. In the 1940's, Evans joined the staff of Time magazine as well as Fortune magazine working as a writer. Evans continued to work for these magazines until the 1960's when in 1965 he became a Professor of Graphic Design at Yale University, finishing this position in 1971. Walker Evans died in 1975 on April 10 at the age of 71. Evans popularity for his FSA photographs continues to remain constant as well as does his popularity of documentary style photographs taken in Cuba.
Arthur Rothstein was born in 1915 in New York City. He earned a BA from Columbia University in 1935. Arthur Rothstein also studied with Roy Stryker while at Columbia University. Rothstein worked for the FSA from 1935 until 1940. He was a photographer for the magazine LOOK between 1940 and 1941. Then, he became the director of photography for the same magazine from 1946 through 1971. Before becoming director of photography for LOOK magazine, Rothstein was a photo officer in the US Army Signal Corps (1943-46) as well as picture editor for the US Office of War Information (1941-1943). Since 1972, Rothstein was the director of photography at Parade magazine. In 1963, he developed the Xograph, a 3-D photo and printing technique. Arthur Rothstein won the NPPA Sprague Award in 1967 and the International Award from the Photographic Society of America in 1968. He died in 1985.
In 1903, Russell Lee was born in Ottawa, Illinois. He studied chemistry at Lehigh University from 1921 until 1925 when he graduated as a chemical engineer. After he left Lehigh, he worked as an assistant plant chemist, then plant chemist, then superintendent of Certainteed Products Company plants all between the years 1925 through 1929. In 1929, Lee studied painting at San Francisco Art Institute until 1931. From 1931 until 1935 Lee was enrolled at the Art Students League in New York City. Russell Lee served in the United States army, the FSA, the Office of War Information, and the Department of Interior's Coal Mines Administration. He also worked as an industrial and magazine photographer and as director of the University of Missouri's Photo Workshop. Between 1946-1947, Lee worked for the Coal Mines Administration. His wife Jean has received much of the credit for captioning the photographs of Russell Lee from a plethora of notes taken while on site with Russell Lee when the photographs were being constructed. Lee died on August 28, 1986.
Born in Lithuania in 1898, Ben Shahn immigrated to the United States where his life as a successful artist began. He attended NY University, and the City College of NY between (1919-1922) and the National Academy of Design in 1922. Shahn traveled to Europe and North Africa to study art in 1925, and again in 1927-1929. He and his wife Bernarda Bryson Shahn were very active during the New Deal art projects of the 1930's in NYC. Shahn shared a studio with Walker Evans in the 1930's. In the early 1930's, Shahn was intrigued with the Sacco and Venzetti trial as well as the T. Mooney trial. Shahn helped Diego Rivera with the Rockefeller Center Frescos in 1932 . Shahn also did some work for the WPA in NYC (1933) on Prohibition. In 1939, Shahn worked on a piece in the Bronx post office. And, in 1956- 1957 Shahn became the Norton Professor at Harvard University. From 1965-66 Shahn constructed the famous Sacco and Venzetti mosaic mural at Syracuse University. Another mural was created by Shahn for the Social Security Building in 1942. Besides photographs taken for the FSA, Shahn also photographed prisons and street scenes, as well as constructed photographs as studies for his paintings. Ben Shahn is a renowned photographer, painter, graphic artist, and illustrator. Shahn passed away in 1969 at the age of 71.
Marion Post was born in 1910 to an affluent family in New Jersey. Marion Post Wolcott's father was a doctor, her mother an outspoken individual. The two later separated as Marion's mother went on to become more immersed in various political agendas, notably concerning birth control and limitations on social workers. In the very early 1930's Post Wolcott taught elementary school in Massachusetts. Between 1934-1935, Marion Post Wolcott studied at the New School for Social Research, New York University, and the University of Vienna, Austria. While in Europe, Post Wolcott saw Hitler speak in Berlin. Post Wolcott, vehemently fearing the rise of the Third Reich, began to voice anti-Nazi concerns in Europe. While spending time with her sister at the University of Vienna, Marion Post Wolcott began to experiment with the photographic medium. Returning to the US, Post Wolcott began working as a freelance photographer for the Associated Press and Fortune magazine. She became a staff photographer for the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin. About her work, Marion Post Wolcott consulted with Ralph Steiner. Steiner suggested she speak with Roy Stryker. Stryker had become aware of Marion Post's work through Steiner and offered Post Wolcott a job as a photographer for the FSA in 1938. In 1941, Marion Post married Lee Wolcott and in February of 1942 resigned from the OWI (the FSA photography department turned into the Office of War Information as a means of retaining its original visual documentary goal). Between 1942- 1968 Marion Post Wolcott supported the efforts of her husband and family, pursuing color photography in 1975. Marion Post Wolcott died in 1990.
Carl Mydans was born on May 20, 1907. While working on his undergraduate degree, Mydans began working for newspapers as a freelance writer. He graduated from Boston University in 1930. In 1932 he worked as a reporter for the American Banker, a New York Wall Street daily, as well as studying photography at the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences. Mydans was one of the first photographers employed by the FSA under Roy Stryker in 1935. However, Mydans left this position in 1936 to try his hand at a new photographic magazine then referred to as Project X, now called Life magazine. From 1938 on Mydans worked for Life magazine for years with Shelly Smith-Mydans, his wife and reporter partner. They covered wartime London, the fall of France, Italy under Mussolini, and the Russian invasion of Finland. Mydans also photographed Pearl Harbor's naval base in 1940. In 1941 Mydans and his wife Shelly, covered the Sino-Japanese War. Approximately a year later, the two were captured by the Japanese and imprisoned in Manila. After 21 months they were set free, and in 1943 they repatriated to the United States. Between 1945 and the early 1970's, Mydans photographically reported on many world events such as the surrender of Japan in 1945, the H-bomb test in Bikini, and the Korean War. Mydans was based in Tokyo numerous times to report on events in Japan. Before retiring from Life magazine in 1972, Carl Mydans had spent time in many foreign nations reporting on a variety of world issues. He was stationed in Singapore in 1973 working on stories for Time and other magazines and in 1976 returned to the US to work on assignments for Time. Some of his many honors include the US Camera Gold Achievement Award (1951) and, in 1960, he was presented with an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Boston University. Carl Mydans died August 16, 2004. "In the universality of our humanity we are there. And the more dramatic or more threatening the surroundings, the more deeply we feel about the people involved." -Carl Mydans, photojournalist.
Jack Delano was born in the Ukraine in 1914. He immigrated to the United States in 1923 and settled in Philadelphia. Delano studied the violin and viola, as well as, composition at the Settlement Music School between 1925 and 1933. Besides pursuing musical interests, Jack Delano also studied, in 1932, the visual arts, taking drawing and painting classes at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. In 1936, he went to Europe as a Cresson Travel Scholar and is rumored to have carried with him a small pocket camera. Delano made a proposal to the Federal Arts Project in 1937 to study and document the conditions in the Coal Mines of Pennsylvania; from this documentation, he put together two books. These books were sent to Roy Stryker in 1939 upon which Delano was then hired by the FSA in 1940. In 1942, Delano was sent to document the wartime freight rail system. Also, around this time, Delano was the only photographer in the FSA to extend his travels to Puerto Rico. Delano's career with the FSA came to an end in 1943. He was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1945, and in 1979, an NEA grant. He died in 1997.
John Collier Jr. was born in 1913 in New York. For a time he lived with painter Maynard Dixon and Dorothea Lange. John Collier Jr.'s father worked for the government, or perhaps more specifically for FDR. It is said by many that Collier Jr. had strong Maritime traditions and skills. In 1930 he returned from a sea voyage dividing his time between Taos and San Francisco doing mural work for the FSA, and spending time with Paul Strand. In the early 1940's, Collier Jr., began employment with the FSA, composing a vast amount of pictures on Navajo Reservations in New Mexico, and generally, in the Southwestern United States. As the FSA photography department came to a close, Collier Jr. transferred with Stryker to the OWI (Office of War Information), then to Standard Oil Company in 1944. Between 1945 and 1947, John and wife Mary worked and traveled in Venezuela, Columbia, Ecuador, and Peru. John Collier Jr. also worked in connection with Alexander Leighton and others in the field of anthropology through Cornell University. In 1954 Collier Jr. traveled with Allan Holmberg to Peru were they worked on the Vicos Project. Using a Guggenheim Fellowship, John Collier Jr. worked in New Mexico between 1955 and 1958. After 1959, Collier Jr. resided in California teaching at the San Francisco Art Institute and San Francisco State University courses related to visual anthropology and cross cultural education, retiring in 1989. Before his death in 1992, John Collier Jr. published books on visual anthropology and studies along the lines of cultural processes.
Agee, James and Walker Evans. Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1960.)
Agee, James and Walker Evans. Many are Called. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1966.)
America 1935-1946: The Photographs of the Farm Security Administration and the Office of War Information arranged by Region and by Subject and Published on Microfiche. January 1980: Chadwyck-Healey.
Benjamin, Walter. Photography In Print. "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction". 1936.
Brix, Michael and Bridget Mayer, edt. Walker Evans America. (NY: Rizzoli, 1991.)
Evans, Walker. Walker Evans Photographs for the FSA 1935-1938. (NY: Da Capro Press, 1973.)
Featherstone, David, edt. "Observations: Essays on Documentary Photography" Untitled, vol. 35 (Friends of Photography, 1984.)
“Fargo Fakery.” Time. 7 Sept. 1936: pgs??
Hagen, Charles, intro. American Photographers of the Depression: Farm Security Administration Photographs 1935 -1942. (NY: Pantheon Books, 1985.)
Hendrickson, Paul. Looking for the Light. (NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 1992.)
Hurley, F. Jack. Marion Post Wolcott: A Photographic Journey. (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1989.)
Hurley, F. Jack. Portrait of a Decade: Roy Stryker and the Development of Documentary Photography in the Thirties. (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1972.)
Lange, Dorothea and Paul S. Taylor. An American Exodus: a Record of Human Erosion. (NY: Reynal and Hitchcock, 1939.)
Lee, Russell, et al. Far From Main Street: Three Photographers in the Depression Era. (Santa Fe, NM: Museum of New Mexico Press, 1994.)
Lee, Russell. Russell Lee, Photographer. (Dobbs Ferry, NY: Morgan and Morgan, 1978.)
Mydans, Carl. Carl Mydans: Photojournalist. (NY: Harry N. Abrams Inc., 1985.)
Parks, Gordon. A Moment in Time: A History of Photography in America (American Documents). Film. Videocassette. Dist. Republic Pictures, 1975.
Parks, Gordon. Moments Without Proper Names. (NY: Viking Press, 1975.)
Parks, Gordon. To Smile in Autumn: a Memoir. (NY, London: W.W. Norton and Company, 1979.)
Parks, Gordon. Voices in the Mirror. (NY: Doubleday, 1990.)
Pratt, Davis, edt. The Photographic Eye of Ben Shahn. (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University, 1975.)
Raines, Howell. “Let Us Now Revisit Famous Folk.” The New York Time Magazine. 25 May 1980: pgs??
Rothstein, Arthur. The American West in the Thirties. (NY: Dover Publications, 1981.)
Rothstein, Arthur. Depression Years. The. (NY: Dover Publications, 1978.)
Rothstein, Arthur. Documentary Photography. (Boston: Focal Press, 1986.)
Shahn, Ben. Ben Shahn. Photographer: an Album from the Thirties. (NY: Da Capro Press, 1973.)
Stange, Maren. “Symbols of Ideal Life: Tugwell, Stryker, and The FSA Photography Project.” Cambridge University Press, Cambridge & New York, 1989.
Taylor, Paul S. Dorothea Lange: Farm Security Administration Photographs: 1935-1939. Ed. Howard M. Levin and Katherine Northrup. 2 Vol. Glencoe: Text-Fiche Press, 1980.
Vachon, Ann, ed. Poland 1946. the Photographs and Letters of John Vachon. (Washington, London: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1995.)
We Have A Plan (The Great Depression, 6). Prod. Blackside Inc. Videocassette. Dist. PBS Video, 1993.
Wright, Richard & Edwin Rosskam. 12 Million Black Voices. (NY: Viking Press, 1941.)
Wroth, William, ed. Russell Lee's Photographs of Chamisal and Penasco New Mexico. (NM: Ancient City Press and Taylor Museum of the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, 1985.)
Wolcott, Marion Post. Marion Post Wolcott: FSA Photographs. Introduction by Sally Stein. Carmel, California: Friends of Photography. Untitled, 34. 1983.
Years of Bitterness and Pride. Farm Security Aqministration FSA Photographs 1935- 1943. (NY: McGraw-Hill Inc., 1975.)
1.) A Moment in Time: A History of Photography in America narrated by Gordon Parks, A Post-Newsweek Production, Republic Pictures Home Videos
This video provides one with a very general understanding of documentary photography over the ages. Recommended for persons newly acquainted with the concept of photography or persons beginning to explore visual imagery in conjunction with historical events and occurrences. The vocabulary is easy to understand, however, the historical events mentioned in this video may not have been brought up in discussion to early grammar school students; certain historical events are mentioned briefly so, it may not be completely necessary for students to understand in full these historical events in order for the presenter of the video to touch upon the significance of visual imagery and record keeping. Note- this video does not solely focus on the Great Depression.
2.) The Weapons of Gordon Parks by Warren Forma is a quick look at the life of Gordon Parks as narrated by Parks. This video does not focus on the Depression, but rather tells the story of a man of color who, with no high school diploma, accomplished in his life more than most may ever dream to. Parks' choice of weapons, (his camera, his pen, his rhetoric of perspective) shaped the lives of many people. This is an inspiring account of a strong willed individual who attempts to seek out the truth in life and communicates (through music, art, visual documentation, writing, and poetry) this truth to others to help the world grow and prosper.
3.) The PBS Great Depression Series
A.) A Job at Ford's- Ford's plan to "exchange hard work for high wages" sent many tumbling into the city of Detroit looking for work. However, Ford's plan came to an end after he employed a secret police staff to "slave drive" persons into the excessive production of automobiles. In 1929 the over production, under consumption reality that set in over most of the United States, which was a factor (if not the major factor) in crippling the American economy, took its toll on the Ford plant leaving many unemployed and eventually spurring violence.
B.) The Road to Rock Bottom- picturing the economic (leading to emotional) chaos that ends with the election of FDR.
C.) Mean Things Happening- the American public fighting for the right to unionize.
D.) New Deal/ New York- conflicts and compromises between FDR and the city offices of New York city, specifically pertaining to Fiorello LaGuardia, the New Deal, and various financial aspects of government.
E.) We Have a Plan- Upton Sinclair and the socialist party, EPIC (End Poverty in California) platform, as well as the grassroots vision.
F.) To Be Somebody- addresses racial issues during the depression era. From the rising fame of Joe Louis to attempts made by Eleanor Roosevelt to implement justice for people of color.
G.) Arsenal of Democracy- the beginnings of WWII which is credited with the revitalization of the American economy.
While they do follow a loose timeline these videos do not necessarily need to be watched in any specific order. They are very informative and thought provoking presentations.
John Steinbeck, who describes one family's account of life during the depression years in The Grapes of Wrath; Edmund Wilson, a social and literary critic of the twentieth century; E.L. Doctorow, a renowned novelist; and James Agee, who worked with Walker Evans to create the books Many are Called and Let Us Now Praise Famous Men as well as published many other writings of his own on or about the Great Depression.
Written by F. Jack Hurley (copyright 1972), the book. Portrait of a Decade: Roy Stryker and the Development of Documentary Photography in the Thirties, gives a basic, fairly objective account of the Farm Security Administration under Stryker between 1935- 1942. Hurley reveres Stryker, however, he does discuss the brash qualities of a man (Stryker) that led the US government to create its greatest visual history record thus far. Hurley attempts to convey, to the reader, the passion that charged through Stryker and his photographic team. Passion which motivated the FSA historical department's search to communicate to the American public the simple contemplated cut of every day American life. Hurley does not neglect to mention the scuffles that arose between Stryker and various individuals employed under him. And, Hurley does not necessarily choose sides in the who was right, who was wrong debate over how different photographers verses different persons in government chose to handle their perspective of how time and energy should be better managed. Portrait of a Decade gives one a good introductory grasp, leading one into the (to some extent) under-acknowledged, unknown area of the FSA (part of FDR's New Deal Agenda). After viewing the slides provided in the kit, this book would be suggested to one as the first book to read to obtain a basic background understanding of the FSA and its relationship to depression era photography.
The article, "Symbols of Ideal Life: Social Documentary Photography Tugwell, Stryker, and the FSA Photography Project", by Maren Stange, adamantly seeks to hold Stryker and Tugwell in less esteem than have authors in past reference material. Stange's interesting account of the discrepancies built up between Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans, Ben Shahn, and Stryker/Tugwell reveal the negative aspects government controlled publication and distribution of visual communication may have on the constructed comprehension of an era by many.
Sally Stein also gives one an alternate perspective on the way in which one might understand the Farm Security Administration project. Stein has compiled a significant amount of information concerning this subject. She wrote the introduction for Marion Post Wolcott: FSA Photographs, a book listed in the bibliography.
After reading the above material and becoming familiar with, or aware of, the varying view points of different historians, critics, and authors one may have started to contemplate the difference between documentary photography, art photography, photojournalism, portraiture, and propaganda, just to name a few. Observations, a publication edited by David Featherstone, assembles essays by persons very knowledgeable in the field of photography. These persons share different perspectives concerning issues of propaganda, documentary photography, different photographic styles, etc. This book may enable one to further extend one's search for a comprehensive view about the FSA project and about photography during the depression as explored by photographers and authors.
To further spark interest in the minds of various persons, controversial articles included within this kit printed by different newspapers, at different points in American history, attack the "truthfulness" of certain subject matter in different photographs, as well as question the photographers relationship to his/her subject.
American Photographers of the Depression published by Pantheon Books, 1985, with an introduction by Charles Hagen allows one to recap some images in this kit, as well as study photographs taken by FSA photographers that are not in the George Eastman Photography Collection. Hagen provides a brief introduction about the FSA under Roy Stryker. There is also bibliographical information about photographers in the FSA in the back of this book.
More information about the Great Depression can be found on the web when searching key words such as: Great Depression, Depression, the New Deal, and related vocabulary.
Definitions taken or modified from:
Barnhart, C.L, edt. American College Dictionary. (New York: Random House Inc., 1960.)
Microsoft Bookshelf 1996-97 edition. (Microsoft Corp., 1987-1996.) Microsoft Encarta 97 Encyclopedia. (Microsoft Corp., 1993-1996.)