Russel Lee

Photos from the Great Depression

August 3 - October 28, 2018

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Photographs from The Great Depression
FSA Documentation Project: Walla Walla County

During the Great Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt launched the largest photographic documentary project in American history. The Farm Security Administration (FSA), was a New Deal agency created in 1937 to improve living conditions for poor farmers, sharecroppers, tenant farmers and migrant workers in rural America. The controversial agency was best known for its small but important photography division whose stated mission was to “introduce America to Americans” by documentation rural poverty and government efforts to alleviate it.

The project was placed under the direction of Roy Stryker, who recruited and directed an extraordinary group of men and women photographers who comprise a virtual “Who’s Who” of twentieth century documentary photography, including Russell Lee, Dorothea Lange, Arthur Rothstein, Gordon Parks, Ben Shahn Marion Post Wolcott and Walker Evans among others. The group travelled independently throughout the nation recording the progress of the FSA program. They created a massive trove of 80,000 photographs (and 68,000 unprinted negatives) that told stories and created icons of an era.

In 1936, Russell Lee was assigned to Walla Walla County. The images exhibited here are only a small selection captured by Lee during his stay in the area. These are digital copies made from scanned negatives, not original prints. The scans taken from the original nitrate negatives are stored in the digital archives of the Library of Congress. Many of the iconic images captured by the FSA photography team are among the most recognizable and treasured images of the 20th century, providing the viewer an invaluable glimpse into our nation's past.

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