The meteorologists call this a “High Pressure system being pushed out by a Low Pressure system.”
Photographers will admit “every once in a while things come together and you get a lucky.”
What do I call it? What does one get for being out there, every evening and every day, always with your “axe (camera)at the ready, often coming home with nothing but the pleasure of having been out there trying?”
The funny thing is, as usual, I was in a part for town I’d never been in before (there are few left). It is a very unusual ‘hood for El Paso. In another city one would call it the “ghetto.” Here, no one thinks there is a ghetto. Being a predominantly latino city (82%), if you have a neighborhood that is lower income, the natural thing is to call it a barrio. This neighborhood was definitely “low income,” and of the three people I conversed with, two had been drinking alcohol to the point of inebriation. It is a mostly Black neighborhood, unusual in El Paso that is only 4% African-American.
The Farm Security Administration (FSA) started out to show government programs to the taxpaying public, to gain support for the New Deal agriculture initiatives of the Resettlement Administration (RA). From mid 1936 to late 1939 it did that but in the doing it found itself -pushed by the hand of its Director, Roy Stryker- documenting “American Life.”
The beginning of the FSA concentrated on the devastation of people and land of the agrarian sector but, as time went on, it broadened its image-making to include the way all Americans lived and worked.
The America of the 1930s is still out there, in the backlands, far away from the eyes of urban America. In fact, if one only learned of the interior of America from the mainstream media (all situated in urban America) one could not know that the America of the 1930s FSA is ongoing, alive, and functioning.
These images are a sample from the FSA road, a road I travel often, now, in 2015, seventy nine years after the creation of the FSA and their portrayal of America.
Then as now it is typified by open space, graphic simplicity and, agriculture and a sense of order now uncommon in urban America.
Editor’s note: Susan Meiselas, Magnum Photographer and long time great documentarian, discusses documentary photography, motivations, uses, intentions and hopes for the work’s impact on subjects and society.
This project, funded by the Open Society Foundations (Meiselas Co-Curated the project’s exhibition), shows the work of some of the world’s best contemporary photographers working in this discipline.
Ami Vitale’s journey as a photojournalist has taken her to more than 75 countries. She has witnessed civil unrest, poverty, destruction of life, and unspeakable violence. But she has also experienced surreal beauty and the enduring power of the human spirit, and she is committed to highlighting the surprising and subtle similarities between cultures. Her photographs have been
exhibited around the world in museums and galleries and published in international magazines including National Geographic, Adventure, Geo, Newsweek, Time, Smithsonian. Her work has garnered multiple awards from prestigious organizations including World Press Photos, the Lowell Thomas Award for Travel Journalism, Lucie awards, the Daniel Pearl Award for Outstanding Reporting, and the Magazine Photographer of the Year award, among many others.
Now based in Montana, Vitale is a contract photographer with National Geographic magazine and frequently gives workshops throughout the Americas, Europe and Asia. She is also making a documentary film on migration in Bangladesh and writing a book about the stories behind the images.
This is a photo essay on the lives of the undocumented as they navigate between their homes and their country chosen for work.
In some ways the “landscape,” of this document has changed since it was photographed in the 1990’s. The immigration interdiction efforts by the United States has reduced the number of migrants and, more recently, the lack of jobs in the U.S. due to the faltering economy has reduced it even further. The personal plight for migrants in the U.S. has changed for the worse, making any return to the mother country impossible due to the danger of the return journey.
This document, however, is still quite valid. The existential delemna of home and heart weighed against stomach and uprootedness is ongoing, worldwide and, as this work shows, problematic.
A documentary project on Displacement…in the “Heartland!
This photographer shows how “progress,” comes to everywhere and the displacement is not limited to indigenous people either. In the end it is the interests of Capital weighed against the interests of Labor that is the issue of land appropriation and displacement.