The Farm Security Administration (FSA) was created in 1937 from an earlier agency named the Resettlement Administration, or RA. The RA had been created by a 1935 executive order of President Franklin D. Roosevelt to help struggling farmers and sharecroppers by providing loans, purchasing depleted farmland and resettling destitute families into government-designed communities.
Roosevelt tapped a former Columbia University economics professor, Rexford G. Tugwell, to lead the RA’s efforts. In turn, Tugwell appointed one of his former students to head the RA’s historical section. That former student was named Roy Stryker and the task given to him was to form a group of photographers who would be responsible for documenting hardships around the country, particularly across the Midwest and in California. Stryker’s team of photographers would go on to produce several iconic images from that time, including Dorothea Lange’s “Migrant Mother” and Arthur Rothstein’s “Fleeing a Dust Storm.” The project is most well known for its black-and-white images. However, it also produced a sizable number of color images that are much more seldom seen.
A new book by Peter Walther, called “New Deal Photography. USA 1935-1943“ (Taschen, 2016) brings together a comprehensive survey of the work done by the FSA, including that more rarely seen color work. From street scenes to pictures of field laborers and train yards, these images show us what the United States looked like in a bygone era, one rife with economic struggle. Here are a few of the incredible images produced by photographers Marion Post Wolcott, Jack Delano, John Vachon, Fenno Jacobs and Russell Lee.
More In Sight: