|Russell Lee 1942|
Russell Lee was born in 1903 in Ottowa, Illinois. He attended Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and earned a degree in chemical engineering, but his heart was in his painting. He became interested in photography initially as a way to improve his painting, but he soon realized that his calling was in photography.
In 1936, the Farm Security Administration, or FSA, hired Lee to take photographs with a group that included Dorothea Lange. Lee traveled around the country, including San Augustine, Texas and Pie Town, New Mexico.
His photographs "were supposed to convince critics of the New Deal that conditions were so bad that government aid was absolutely necessary." (https://www.texasmonthly.com/articles/making-the-best-of-it/)
|Home of Farmer, Wheelock, North Dakota, 1937|
Lee's photography usually features real life situations, people of poverty in their day to day lives during the Great Depression. Even though he often shows the direst of environments, Lee's subjects often seem resigned, or during celebratory times, even content. At other times, his subjects stare unflinchingly at the camera with a palpable sadness or a stoic resignation.
|Sharecroppers in Missouri|
|Migrant farmer and daughter near Harlingen, Texas|
|Little Girls Getting Tickets for the Merry-go-round at the Carnival on the Fourth of July, Vale, Oregon, 1941|
After the FSA disbanded in 1943, Lee worked for the Air Transport Command. He then worked for the U.S. Department of the Interior, taking pictures of coal mining communities. Lee also documented the forced relocation of the Japanese Americans to internment camps.
|Tagged for evacuation, Salinas, California 1942|
In 1947, he moved to Austin, Texas where he eventually became the first photography instructor at the University of Texas in 1965. Russell Lee died in 1986. Lee's legacy is documenting some of the hardest times in our country with realism and compassion.
|Yarborough campaign onlookers, Mount Vernon, Texas.|
|Street Scene, San Augustine, Texas 1939|
|Shack in Granger, Texas|
|Daughter of Pomp Hall Preparing Peas for Supper, Oklahoma, 1940.|
|Cowboys Drinking Beers Alpine, Texas 1939|
|Farmer Buying Seeds in a Store, San Augustine, Texas, 1939|
|Mexican Girls Carrot Workers Edinburgh, Texas 1939|
Library of Congress: Many Photographs of Russell Lee's