“What impels me to click the shutter is not what things look like, but what they mean.”—Jack Delano
“Delano didn’t have to stray far to see and experience the ravages of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl. He was, as every artist must be, sensitive to human suffering. He was deeply affected by the wretched conditions around him and believed that artists had an obligation to use their talents for social change.”—Esmeralda Santiago on Jack Delano
The more than 175,000 photographs in the Library of Congress’ collection from the Resettlement Administration (RA, 1935–1937), Farm Security Administration (FSA, 1937–1942) and Office of War Information (OWI, 1942–1944) provide a unique and comprehensive view of American life from 1935 to 1944. This government photography project, headed by Roy E. Stryker, employed a small group of individuals who would become some of the 20th-century’s best-known photographers, such as Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, Russell Lee, Marion Post Wolcott, Arthur Rothstein and Carl Mydans. Initially conceived to document government loans to farmers and their resettlement in suburban communities, the scope of the project expanded to create a visual record of agricultural workers in the South, Midwest and Western United States. Later, Stryker’s photographers recorded both rural and urban centres throughout the country as the nation prepared for World War II. Photographers were sent on assignment to specific regions of the country with guidelines from Stryker to “shoot everyday life;” as Ben Shahn said, “we just took pictures that cried out to be taken.” In 1941, Marion Post Wolcott was documenting migrant workers in Florida, while Jack Delano was photographing African American inmates in a Greene Country, Georgia, jail. Russell Lee sent Stryker film of a gold-mining town in Colorado in 1942, while John Vachon was documenting the farmers hit hard by the Depression in the Midwest.
Each of the volumes in this series presents 50 striking and often experimental images by an individual FSA/OWI photographer. While most are black and white negatives, colour transparencies do exist and are among the lesser-known images in the collection. These are included in select volumes to give a complete sense of the photographer’s work. In addition, each volume features a Preface by W. Ralph Eubanks, former Director of Publishing, Library of Congress. Together, the volumes recreate for the viewer a picture of life prior to World War II and communicate a foreboding sense of the changes that would follow.
Jack Delano (1914–1997) became interested in photography after studying graphic arts and music at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. In 1939, he joined the Farm Security Administration as a staff photographer. Delano photographed living and working conditions throughout the East Coast and Puerto Rico during his time with the agency. He later settled in Puerto Rico, working as a photographer for the Puerto Rican government and pursuing a myriad of projects in illustration, film, media, and musical composition.
Series editor Amy Pastan is an independent editor, photo researcher, writer, and book producer based in Washington, D.C. In addition to producing volumes for the Library of Congress and other cultural institutions, she writes features for the Web and provides content for film and digital media.
Table of contents
- Preface by W. Ralph Eubanks, former director of publishing, Library of Congress
- Image credits