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Russell Lee Photograph Collection - Excerpt from Introduction - Page 8

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

"You're having a tough time here and the rest of the country needs to see pictures of it so they can appreciate what you're going through." Or he might say, "You've got old pictures here of your family and that's part of your history. Pictures of what you're going through will be part of our country's history." It is also true that people were generally less suspicious then,

more likely to be at home, and more likely to cooperate with government workers.

With World War II dominating American life and issues of the Great Depression fading, the FSA Historical Section (Stryker's unit and his photographers) was transferred to the Office of War Information (OWI) in 1942. In 1943 Lee left to join the Air

Transport Command and began two years of grueling assignments around the world. His aerial photographs, made to show hard facts of topography to help orient pilots, are also elegant visual abstractions. On the ground he documented both military life and the local scenes around it.

After the war, as he and Jean were relaxing and readjusting to civilian life, a

Man in rocking chair and woman washing clothes in a tub on a porch.

Lee did not see all his FSA subjects as noble. When reviewing his FSA work one day, he commented on this man as being fat and lazy.

Children practicing letters on chalk board with one little girl picking up dropped chalk.

A routine document turned into a "second looker" when Lee captured the reach for the dropped chalk with his press camera and flash. FSA, 1930s.