Why did the U.S. Government hire photographers in the 1930s?

In March 1933, in the midst of the Great Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected on his New Deal platform, which promised to put people back to work by creating jobs through a program of public works. The next year, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) was established to fund public projects building dams, bridges, and parks as well as employing actors, architects, artists, musicians, and writers.

One element of the New Deal was the Resettlement Administration (RA), organized in 1935 to provide aid to impoverished farmers, particularly through publicizing the needs of these rural citizens (the RA was later absorbed by the Farm Security Administration [FSA]). Dorothea Lange was one of more than twenty photographers hired to create documents of rural America, which were then made available for government reports as well as to newspapers and picture magazines. After the United States entered World War II in December 1941, the division overseeing these photographers was transferred to the Office of War Information (OWI).

Learn about two other FSA photographers whose work is included in the Getty collection:

Destitute Pea-Pickers / Lange