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The University of Texas at Austin

Exhibits

Russell Lee Photograph Collection - Excerpt from Introduction - Page 6

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

Portrait of young woman by piano. Here Lee’s camera captured the spirit and intimacy that he found hard to accomplish through painting. 1935-1936.

Portrait of young woman by piano. Here Lee's camera captured the spirit and intimacy that he found hard to accomplish through painting. 1935–1936.

Historically, when photographers have had long periods of support to practice their craft and a vision focused on a unified purpose, the results have had enduring value. It happened in 1850s France with the Commission on Historical Monuments, in the United States with the United States Geological Surveys of western lands after the Civil War, in 1980s Great Britain's support of documentary photography. Supporting the prominence of FSA photography is its position as government property, well cataloged and readily available from the Library of Congress to the public at modest cost without copyright. As a record of a crucial period in our country's history, the 1930s Great Depression, the FSA file has seen continuing widespread use. The work of FSA photographers Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans is most often mentioned by critics and historians, but reproductions of Lee's images have been more frequently requested than those of any other FSA photographer.

Lee’s forte was people and activity, but he sometimes did studies of complex form and texture like this tight framing on field corn. 1935–1936.

Lee's forte was people and activity, but he sometimes did studies of complex form and texture like this tight framing on field corn. 1935–1936.