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Indiana Photos

There are 678 photos with captions taken in Indiana. There were nine FSA photographers in Indiana. There were photos taken in all years from 1935 to 1943, except for 1939 when no photographs were taken in Indiana. By far the most photos were taken during just three years: in 1937, covering the flood of the Ohio River and stories about tenant farmers; in 1938 covering three resettlement communities, Decatur Homesteads and Wabash and Deshee Farms; and in 1943 covering the U.S. Army Chaplain School at Fort Ben Harrison. Most of the photos taken by the FSA photographers are primarily concerned with rural and traditional agricultural life. There are very few industrial shots and no photos of major industries, such as the steel or automotive industries. Rexford Tugwell told Roy Stryker to “Show the city people what it is like to live on the farm.” And in the case of Indiana, they did just that. There are photos of various crops, including oats, soybeans, sorghum, wheat, cantaloupes and corn. There are photos of livestock, including chickens, cows, hogs, sheep and horses.

The FSA photographers also liked to photograph main streets, courthouse squares, parks, schools, post offices, churches, hotels, stores, cafes, lunch rooms, dinners, barbershops, gas stations and libraries. The lasting impression they left in the overall photographic collection is of the small town as a friendly, social public space. City assignments tended to be very specific and narrow in focus. The city photographs often show crowded anonymous scenes, which are in stark contrast to the neighborly small town scenes. The only major city in Indiana photographed was Indianapolis, including photos around Monument Circle, the Greyhound Bus Station, and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

There are a few photos of Afro-Americans, but not nearly as many as were taken in other regions of the country. Between 1935 and 1941, over 20% of the images produced by the FSA photographers in the South had images of Afro-Americans. There are some photographs of signs, but not as many as in other states. Signs abound in the overall FSA photographic collection, including amateur commercial signs and hand painted ones. The photos of the signs are now part of cultural heritage of the Great Depression. There are also many photos of erosion, barns and homes, families and children, working men and people at play and relaxation. There are no photos of sharecroppers, drought, dust storms, migrants or migrant camps. The Farm Security Administration constructed 95 camps. There were camps in California, Texas, Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Michigan, Missouri, Oregon, Washington, Arkansas and Colorado, but none in Indiana.

Russell Lee took the most photographs in Indiana. In the fall of 1936 he was traveling alone through the Midwest. For months he lived in hotels and boarding houses in small towns. He also went to Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota and parts of Michigan. He took the photographs of the flood of the Ohio River in early 1937.

Arthur Rothstein took the second most photographs in Indiana. In late 1937 and early 1938 money was tight for the Historical Section. The Department of Public Health realized that FSA photographers did excellent work and began to use their services on a regular basis. As the Department paid their bills on time and Stryker needed the money, Rothstein did work for the Department of Public Health. But sometimes a trip for other agencies could be used to pay for a project for Stryker. That summer Rothstein travelled in the Midwest for the Department of Public Health, including Indianapolis. While on assignment, he was also able to go to Vincennes and photograph a FSA resettlement community in action. Rothstein’s Indiana visits featured the state’s two major resettlement projects. He also shot photos of the Indianapolis 500 on Memorial Day in 1938.

Theodor Jung was the first FSA photographer to come to Indiana. He joined the Historical Section in September 1935. Stryker had high hopes for him. He visited Brown County in 1935. His pictures included ones of erosion, submarginal land, poor roads, inadequate living quarters and FSA clients. Jung had excellent instincts for good photographs, but his technical grasp of cameras was not as good. Stryker was disappointed with his output, especially his April 1936 Midwest trip. Within two months he was transferred to another division in the Resettlement Administration, the Special Skills Division.

Dorothea Lange took only 11 photographs on a brief visit in Indiana. Lange took photographs in Clayton, very near US 40 - the Old National Road, in Hendricks County in July 1936, when the heat of summer was intense. She was concerned with how the weather would affect the quality of her photos, but Stryker told her they were excellent. Her photographs of threshing convey the nature of this hard and dirty work. She became interested in the mechanization of agriculture and thought perhaps that threshing crews were a rare sight. Perhaps she wanted to capture images of a disappearing form of farm work. Perhaps she also sought to capture an image that reflected the pioneer spirit.

Paul Carter took only three photographs in Indiana. He also joined the staff in 1935. He was the brother of John Franklin Carter, who was the Head of the Information Division, Stryker’s boss. He was in poor health, and lacked the energy for trips. This highlights just how physically grueling it must have been for the FSA photographers to go on assignment. Stryker convinced him that the life of an FSA photographer was not for him. He left to open a camera store near Dartmouth College in 1936.

Carl Mydans took just slightly more than a dozen photos in Indiana. He took photographs of one of the resettlement communities, Decatur Homesteads. John Vachon started as a trainee in 1936 and advanced to clerk in charge of the photographic file and eventually a photographer. He took photographs in Martin, Knox and Marion counties. His photos of people in Vincennes show individuals and families relaxing. He also took photos at Deshee Farms.

Jack Delano, an experienced commercial photographer, photographed two series in Indiana under the auspices of the Office of War Information. He went to the military training camp at Fort Benjamin Harrison to photograph the U. S. Army Chaplain’s School. His photos present an interracial and interdenominational picture of chaplains preparing for war. He also photographed a day in the life of workers on the Indiana Harbor Belt Railroad.

Esther Bubley started as a darkroom assistant at the Office of War Information, where the Historical Section had been transferred from the Farm Security Administration. With the encouragement of both Stryker and other photographers she began to take pictures for the Office of War Information, documenting life on the home front during the war. One of her first and most challenging assignments was a four-month Greyhound bus trip in the Midwest and South, going from Washington, D.C. to as far north as Chicago and as far south as Memphis. The aim was to document bus transportation, which had increased with the rationing of gasoline. She was the last FSA photographer to visit Indiana in 1943.

A sampling of portraits for many of the FSA photographers can be found on the Library of Congress’s website Photographs of the FSA: Selected Portraits.

Last updated by andjsmit on 12/06/2012