There is a powerful history of documentary photography in the United States. Recently I watched a documentary about the work of Roy Stryker and the Farm Security Administration. The film called Roy Stryker and the FSA/OWI Photographers was written and directed by Jeanine Isabel Butler and "addresses an impressive range of issues--focused through representation and responsibility--is germane for us today."
In 1975 Roy Stryker said, "the picture began to be the things of my life, the photograph was the way to reach the people, somehow, someway I wanted life in pictures." In 1935, Franklin Roosevelt put documentary photography to work. Long before the television, the internet, and the 24 hour news cycle, he believed that imagery could reach more citizens and their government action. He charged the Resettlement Administration with providing that imagery, to reveal America to Americans.
Dorothea Lange's iconic photograph captures the desolation and poverty of the Great Depression. Yet Florence Owens Thompson's children leaning into her, and the classic curve of the baby's face, combined with the delicate position of her hand draws the viewer today. Eighty years after this photograph was taken young Americans have a sense of what families endured in those trying times.
This important photograph was a last minute decision by Arthur Rothstein. He had spent the day with farmer Arthur Coble and his two sons in Cimarron County, Oklahoma during a dust storm. There was some direction in this picture story. Rothstein asked the younger boy to lean back with his arms over his eyes and the older boy and his father to lean forward in order to show the country, and the lawmakers in Washington the troubles of families in the Dust Bowl.
This photograph was taken when Evans was on leave from the FSA, and working on his book, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men with James Agee. He documented the plight of poor tenant farmers in Hale County, Alabama. The farmer's eyes convey the pain and desolation.. Sitting with a dark black background behind him the viewer feels the sense of uncertainty of the times.
Visual storytelling is as important in America today as it was in the Great Depression. Photographs are plentiful and they are everywhere. Anyone with a smart phone can document a tragedy, an emotional moment, or a gift of compassion. We all have the ability to educate and inform through pictures and texts and the information is transmitted instantaneously.
This is a visual world and the opportunity to do great things with photographs is still as valuable today in America as it was during the time of the Farm Security Administration. I'm committed to documenting events that are important to families and community organizations. Just as the Great Depression can be revisited today through the FSA photographs, I am certain the documentary photographs of 2016 will inspire photographers 100 years from now. Take the time to learn about me. Call and arrange to have your next event documented by Faces-Places-Photography. We are committed to telling your story!