by Gerald Boerner
“Truth is the objective of the Documentary attitude.” — Roy Stryker, Manager of the Farm Security Administration’s (FSA) Photographic Project
Bonus: Photographer’s Thought for the Day… “[…photographer needs] rectangular eyeballs and horse blinders to frame and focus the vision of what is seen.” — Roy Stryker, in Professional photographer’s survival guide by Charles E. Rotkin
Bonus: Photographer’s Thought for the Day… “The 270,000 pictures [of the Farm Security Administration] are called a great collection, perhaps the greatest ever assembled in the history of America. But I am not interested in adjectives. I am only interested in pictures.” — Roy Stryker, in Great Images of the 20th Century : The Photographs That Define Our Times by Kelly Knauer (Editor), Inc Time
Roy Emerson Stryker was an American economist, government official, and photographer. He is most famous for heading the Information Division of the Farm Security Administration (FSA) during the Great Depression and launching the documentary photography movement of the FSA.
After serving in the infantry in World War I, Stryker went to Columbia University where he studied economics. He used his photography to illustrate his economics texts and lectures. At Columbia, he worked with Rexford Tugwell, and when Tugwell became part of the Resettlement Administration, Stryker followed him. Tugwell and Stryker refocused the attention of the Resettlement Administration to document the problems of the heartland, and in 1935 Stryker became the head of the Historical Section (Information Division) of the RA. The RA was renominated the Farm Security Administration, and Stryker set up the photodocumentary project.
Stryker’s greatest contribution to the FSA’s photographic project was as a manager. The photographers involved attested to the fact that Stryker was expert at getting good work out of them. He made sure that the photographers were well briefed on their assigned areas before being sent out, and he ensured that they were properly funded. Stryker also made sure that mainstream publications had access to FSA photographs. This both helped focus public attention on the plight of the rural poor and set up the commercial careers of his photographers. Overall, from 164,000 developed negatives some 77,000 different finished photographic prints were made for the press, plus 644 color images.
Photographers hired by Stryker for the FSA included: Dorothea Lange, Arthur Rothstein, Walker Evans, Ben Shahn, John Vachon, Marion Post Wolcott, Russell Lee, Jack Delano, Gordon Parks, John Collier Jr, Carl Mydans, and Edwin and Louise Rosskam.
[Biographical information is from the Wikipedia article on Roy Stryker that can be found at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roy_Stryker ]