“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 approximately 172,000 film negatives and transparencies in the Library of Congress’ collection from the Farm Security Administration (FSA), later the Office of War Information (OWI), provide a unique view of American life during the Great Depression and World War II. This government photography project, headed by Roy E. Stryker, employed many relatively unknown names who later became some of the 20th century’s best-known photographers.
Jack Delano was born in Russia in 1914 and moved with his family to Philadelphia at age nine. Hired by the FSA in 1940 as an itinerant photographer, he was assigned in 1941 to the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. After service during World War II, he returned to Puerto Rico on a Guggenheim fellowship to produce a book documenting conditions there. He continued to live and work on the island until his death in 1997.
Each volume in the Fields of Vision series features an introduction to the work of a single FSA/OWI photographer by a leading contemporary author or writer, and presents 50 striking images that show how the particular vision of these photographers helped shape the collective identity of America. Their evocative pictures transport the viewer to American homes, farms, and streets of the 1930s and 1940s, while offering a glimpse of a new narrative and intimate style that was later to blossom on the pages of post-war magazines. For many Americans of the pre-television age, the diversity and complexity of their country was defined by the lenses of these men and women.
Esmeralda Santiago is the author of three acclaimed memoirs: When I was Puerto Rican, Almost a Woman, and The Turkish Lover. Among her numerous honors is a George Foster Peabody Award for the film of Almost a Woman, which she adapted for PBS Masterpiece Theater. Santiago is also an essayist and the author of the novels América’s Dream and Conquistadora.
Series Editor Amy Pastan is an independent editor and book packager. She was formerly a staff editor at
the National Gallery of Art, Washington, and acquisitions editor at the Smithsonian Institution Press, where she developed volumes on photography and fine arts.
Table of contents
- Preface by W. Ralph Eubanks, former director of publishing, Library of Congress
- Introduction by Esmeralda Santiago
- Image credits