Photographs by Dorothea Lange, Gordon Parks and Ben Shahn.
February – April 2022, Gallery Bergen. (Images now on display in Ender Hall through 2023.)
The Farm Security Administration, established in 1937, was a key organization in President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, addressing the social and economic consequences of the Great Depression which coincided with a devastating drought and soil degradation in the Midwest. Thousands of farming families, many of them tenant or sharecropping farmers, were forced to relocate or take to the road as migrant laborers in search of agricultural work. The FSA was organized to address the effects of rural poverty and dislocation.
Part of this effort was a small but highly influential photography program that portrayed the challenges of rural poverty. This U.S. government photography project was headed for most of its nine-year existence by Roy Stryker, who guided the effort in a succession of government agencies: the Resettlement Administration (1935–1937), the Farm Security Administration (1937–1942), and the Office of War Information (1942–1944). Hiring artists to “introduce America to Americans,” young photographers including Dorothea Lange, Gordon Parks, Ben Shahn, Walker Evans, Margaret Bourke-White and Jack Delano took to the road to create images and document the lives of people mostly unknown, discounted, or ignored.
This exhibition focuses on the work of two photographers native to New Jersey – Dorothea Lange (born in Hoboken) and Ben Shahn (Montclair) – and the New York-based photographer Gordon Parks. Each of these artists got their start in the FSA Photography Program and went on to significant careers.
Several of the images shown in this exhibition, including Dorothea Lange’s “Migrant Mother” and Gordon Parks’s “Washington DC Charwoman” are some of the most well known, iconic photographs of the twentieth century.
The images in this show are digital prints made from original negatives in the collection of the Library of Congress which the curators gratefully acknowledge.