J.R. Butler, President of the Southern Tennant Farmers union, Memphis, Tennessee
Dorothea Lange (American, 1895 - 1965)
Memphis, Tennessee, United States (Place created)
negative June 1938; print about 1950s
Gelatin silver print
33.7 x 26.4 cm (13 1/4 x 10 3/8 in.)
© Oakland Museum of California, the City of Oakland
When Dorothea Lange originally photographed J.R. Butler, she created a waist-length portrait; however, she cropped the image years later to create a direct human confrontation in which Butler's wide-eyed, earnest expression demands attention. As the President of the Southern Tenant Farmers Union, Butler played an instrumental role in bringing the economic plight of tenant farmers and sharecroppers to the attention of landlords and the Roosevelt Administration. Farm owners responded with threats and evictions for the union leaders. Butler, whose every wrinkle reveals the hardships faced by tenant farmers, embodied the determination of workers who sought to effect change.
Keller, Judith. In Focus: Dorothea Lange. Photographs from the J. Paul Getty Museum. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2002), p.35.