Skip to NavSkip to Content

 
The University of Texas at Austin

Exhibits

Russell Lee Photograph Collection - Excerpt from Introduction - Page 2

Excerpt from "There Was A Job To Do" The Photographic Career of Russell Lee by J. B. Colson

Convivial group at small table. 1935-1936.

Convivial group at small table. 1935-1936.

Man contemplating display in a shoe store window at night. The horse that seems to jump at the man is an example of the unusual juxtaositions and ironies found in the best street photography. 1935–1936.

Man contemplating display in a shoe store window at night. The horse that seems to jump at the man is an example of the unusual juxtaositions and ironies found in the best street photography. 1935–1936.

make bricks. He followed the followers of spiritual phenomenon Father Divine. He pushed the limits of his photographic system, sometimes getting underexposed, unsharp frames as he mastered his medium. Lingering concerns with portraiture from his painting days are sometimes evident.

Although Lee had had more than five years of immersion in art with training as a painter, his earliest images were far more photographic than painterly in approach. What he had learned from art, and what he was to stress years later as a photography teacher, was seeing—careful observation of everything that might be your subject,

but particularly of people active in their everyday lives.
The evidence of Lee's visual talent, apport with people, and socioeconomic sensitivity in his earliest work convinced Roy Stryker to hire him for the FSA in 1936 when veteran photographer Carl Mydans left for Life magazine. Through