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The University of Texas at Austin


Center for American History presents panel discussion and exhibition: The Documentary Photography of Russell Lee


Yarborough campaign onlookers, Mount Vernon, Texas.

AUSTIN, TEXAS – February 9, 2007 – The documentary photography of acclaimed photo-journalist and former UT Austin photography professor Russell Lee will be featured in an upcoming free public program and exhibition sponsored by the Center for American History at The University of Texas at Austin.

The public program and panel discussion will be held on Tuesday, March 27, 2007, at the Joe C. Thompson Conference Center on the UT Austin campus from 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Panelists will include UT Professor Emeritus J. B. Colson and documentary photographers Dr. Vme Edom Smith, director of the "Truth With A Camera" workshop in Norfolk, Virginia, and Alan Pogue, director of the Texas Center for Documentary Photography. Dr. Don Carleton, director of the Center for American History, will serve as master of ceremonies and moderator.

The exhibition of 40 black and white Lee photographs will be on display at Flatbed Press, 2830 East MLK Blvd., from March 30 through May 31, 2007. Flatbed Press is open to the public Tuesday through Saturday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Both the public program and exhibition are free and open to the public.

The two events coincide with the publication of the Center’s new book, Russell Lee Photographs: Images from the Russell Lee Photograph Collection at the Center for American History, published by UT Press.

"The legacy of Russell Lee’s documentary photography is profound," said Carleton. "From his work with the photographic unit of the Federal Farm Security Administration during the Depression, his controversial study of spanish-speaking people in Texas, and his political work as a photographer for the Texas Observer, Russell evidenced a singular compassion for the human condition. His generous donation in 1986 of his personal negative and print collection to the Center for American History was the foundation event that led to the Center becoming one of the nation’s major repositories of news and documentary photography."

Linda Peterson, Head of Photographic and Digital Archives at the Center for American History, selected the photographs included in both the book and the exhibition from more than 27,000 negatives that are part of the Center's Russell Lee Collection. Many of the exhibition prints have never been published. Peterson also wrote introductory text for each of the book’s four sections.

"One of the reasons Russell Lee was drawn to photography was because he could use it to document the human condition in a very direct and immediate way," said Peterson. "It was a tool for him to communicate his compassion and concern for people—often but not always less fortunate than himself. The human condition is the essential component that unites his entire body of work."

"Photography as a medium has a well-established history with its chosen gallery of images as determined by a consensus of critics and historians," wrote J.B. Colson in his introduction to the Center’s new Russell Lee book. "Most of the connoisseurs who write the judgments of history are familiar with Russell Lee as an FSA photographer. Many have never seen well-reproduced examples of his other work. The goal of this book is to provide all viewers a better chance to appreciate Lee's accomplishments."

The Center's Russell Lee Photograph Collection consists of 3,639 photographic prints, 708 slides, 27,047 photographic negatives, and five color transparencies. The collection is available to researchers and the general public in the Center’s Research and Collections Division, Sid Richardson Hall, Unit 2, on the UT Austin Campus. A guide to the collection is available at

As an Organized Research Unit of The University of Texas at Austin, the Center for American History facilitates, sponsors and supports teaching, research, and public education in U. S. history. In support of its mission, the Center acquires, preserves and makes available for research archival, artifact, and rare book collections and sponsors exhibitions, conferences, film and video documentaries, oral history projects, grant-funded research, and publications. The Center's resources and services support the University's curriculum and University faculty, student and staff research, as well as research by the general public.

For more information about the Russell Lee public program and exhibition, contact Linda Peterson at (512) 495-4468 or