15th May 2013
It’s easier to discuss a group of photographers with a heading of the government department they all worked for, who over a very short period of eight years, produced some of the most influential work on social (in)justice that still influences many, including me, to this day, than to discuss them as individuals in separate entries.
Along with may others I think my favourite of the group is Dorothea Lange closely followed by Walker Evans.
Lange was particularly prolific and the digitised collection in the Library of Congress has over 3,800 separate images in its collection. Evans work is held by Metropolitan Museum of Art and includes his entire estate, less approximately 1,000 negatives held by Library of Congress, which amounts to over 10, 000 items.
Of course there are many other notable photographers who worked for the FSA, Gordon Parks, Jack Delano, Russell Lee, Carl Mydans, Marion Post Walcott, Arthur Rothstein and quite a few others. They were ably led by Roy Stryker who set them their individual assignments and provided detailed instructions on what, where, when and how he wanted the images to appear. This did become very irksome to many of the individuals who felt that individual creativity was being stifled which did lead to some confrontations, but he oversaw the production of 164,000 negatives, 77,000 individual photographs being made available to the press along with over 600 early colour photographs. This helped the American public and the administration of the period overcome the degrading and debilitating poverty that the depression era caused on the rural population of marginal farmers and their families.
Today this work has far-reaching influences on many documentary photographers by giving them a lead on the depiction of social injustice and the humanisation of their problems. Although a great tragedy in history was recorded by these artists without their influential work the depiction of modern tragedies would possibly be more exploitational as many other areas of photography have become.
My recent work has definitely been influenced not only by personal circumstances but also by the review of many of the images created by this group and I hope that it shows in my images.