Segments in this Video

New Deal Photography Project (04:08)


Roy Stryker is hired by a New Deal agency to photograph America's farmers. The purpose of the project is to convince Congress that displaced Americans need government help.

Americans Disenfranchised in Depression (03:31)

For Roy Stryker and his team of photographers, overcoming apathy of the Americans hurt most by the Depression is a challenge. By the time Roosevelt is elected in 1933, 25% of America's workforce is unemployed.

FDR and Help for Farmers (02:54)

Roosevelt's short-term goal for American farmers is to get more income into their hands. Farm owners take government subsidies, but do not share them with tenants or sharecroppers. Massive numbers of displaced people look for work.

Political Crisis Under FDR (03:07)

City people do not understand the situation in the country and on the farms. Many believe that Roosevelt's ideas are socialistic. Roy Stryker and his team must delineate the farmers' plight.

Documentary Photography (03:16)

Roy Stryker's photographers create a strategy for promoting the Resettlement Administration's programs. They photograph people working, playing, and suffering. The documentary photograph is Stryker's weapon of choice.

Walker Evans: Photographer (03:42)

Walker Evans is one of the most influential photographers in the United States. Ben and Bernarda Shahn photograph the South, shocked by what they see. Most black Americans cannot read and have no idea how to help themselves.

Photographer John Colyer and Walker Evans (04:39)

Photographer John Colyer brings light and life to American Indians, a population suffering like black Americans, disenfranchised from their land and rights. Walker Evans and James Agee spend 8 weeks documenting the plight of one family.

Photographer Dorothea Lange (03:10)

Dorothea Lange brings art qualities to her photography. She documents the farmers of California. The power of Lange's photographs convinces legislators that something needs to be done.

Media Coverage of America's Poor (03:11)

Roy Stryker bombards newspapers and magazines with photographs of America's poor and desperate. Louise Rosskam documents the class and racial divisions surrounding her own home.

1920s: City vs. Rural Life (02:39)

Photographers capture stark differences between rural life and life in the city. In the 1920s, 90% of rural farmers have no electricity. Marion Post Wolcott lets her camera speak for the social injustices she witnesses.

Photography: Propaganda or Information? (04:37)

President Roosevelt advocates for the New Deal agency's photography program. New Deal programs are the central focus of his campaign. Opponents of the program denounce the photographs as propaganda.

Reaction Against Documentary Photography (03:23)

When Stryker's agency morphs into the Farm Security Administration, the photographers go back to work. They meet with resistance all over the country, as power brokers seek to hide the truth of worker exploitation.

Gordon Parks and Plight of Black Americans (03:58)

Richard Wright and three photographers witness and photograph the black migration northward. Gordon Parks photographs the abject poverty of blacks in Chicago and Washington DC.

Photography for War Propaganda (02:26)

By 1940, New Deal programs are under attack by Republicans and Democrats in Congress. Roy Stryker and his photographers are transferred to the War Department when America enters WWII. They become part of a propaganda campaign.

Japanese-American Displacement (02:56)

The US government hires Lange and others to document the "fair" treatment of Japanese Americans. Gordon Parks resigns when the government forbids him from photographing black Air Force pilots.

Photographs Housed in Library of Congress (01:52)

In1943, Roy Stryker saves the file of photographs from his enemies on Capitol Hill and from federal bureaus who want his agency wiped out without a trace. He sees that they are transferred to the Library of Congress.

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Documenting the Face of America: Roy Stryker and the FSA/OWI Photographers

DVD (Chaptered) Price: $169.95
DVD + 3-Year Streaming Price: $254.93
3-Year Streaming Price: $169.95



Beginning in 1935, a group of New Deal–sponsored photographers roamed the American landscape, capturing the human face of the Great Depression. This film tells the story of the mammoth project, supervised by Roy Stryker of the Farm Security Administration and later made part of the Office of War Information. Viewers will encounter the poignant, iconic images and personal challenges of photographers Gordon Parks, Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans, Marion Post Wolcott, and other visionaries. Interviews with Parks, Louise Rosskam, and Bernarda Shahn—wife of painter and photographer Ben Shahn—shed light on a period in which artistic innovation formed a response to social and economic despair. (56 minutes)

Length: 57 minutes

Item#: BVL40086

ISBN: 978-1-60825-149-0

Copyright date: ©2008

Closed Captioned

Reviews & Awards

“Documentary TV at its best.” —New York Daily News, “The Year’s Best Shows and TV Moments—2008”


“The politics and the photographers who shaped those images under the auspices of the federal Farm Security Administration come to life in Documenting the Face of America: Roy Stryker and the F.S.A./O.W.I. Photographers …. F. Jack Hurley, professor emeritus of history at the University of Memphis and author of a book on Mr. Stryker said in an interview that Documenting the Face of America helped put a few dozen widely reproduced Depression-era photographs into a broader context.” —The New York Times

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