Tag Archives: Arthur Rothstein

Howard Liberman FSA OWI Gloucester Photos

Catherine Ryan Submits-

CROSS-COUNTRY CHRONICLE

Gloucester, MA in landmark FSA/OWI documentary photographs

Part 3

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American Photographer HOWARD LIBERMAN

150 FSA/OWI photos in Gloucester, MA, September 1942

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Hey, Joey,

Here is Part 3 in a series about Gloucester photographs in the legendary Farm Security Administration / Office of War Information (FSA/OWI) collection within the Library of Congress.

You can go back to Part 1 about artist Gordon Parks, and for some background about the program (1935-42).

Part 2 is about photographer Arthur Rothstein with a timeline and quick facts.

In 1942, the Farm Security Administration Historic Photographic section program was winding down as it transitioned and prioritized for WWII. It was temporarily folded into the Office of War Information before shutting down completely. (Gordon Parks was brought on board during this transition.) Director Roy Stryker was occupied with many directives including securing a safe haven for the FSA archives. He was also maintaining a network of contacts in the publishing world and private sectors, and writing. He contributed a chapter for Caroline Ware’s influential book, The Cultural Approach to History. There was magazine work such as the 1942 issue of The Complete Photographer which published articles by both Arthur Rothstein (“Direction in the Picture Story”) and Roy Stryker (“Documentary Photography”.)

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Rothstein had already left the FSA. In 1940, Peter E. Smith Publishers, Gloucester, MA, produced his photo book, Depression Years as Photographed by Arthur Rothstein. This compilation of photographs included the best known Gloucester image from his 1937 visit; was it one of the publisher’s, too.

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In 1941, Elmer Davis was appointed as the Director of the newly created Office of War Information (OWI). In 1942, Davis hired Francis Edwin Brennan from FORTUNE magazine to head the Graphics Department of the OWI.

As Art Director of Fortune (1938-1942), Brennan commissioned famous covers by artists such as Otto Hagel and Fernand Leger. He was known in the industry as a serious art and publishing expert and was a favorite of Henry Luce.

It’s likely that Brennan was one contact for Howard Liberman’s engagement at OWI. In August of 1941 Brennan featured a FORTUNE magazine special portfolio of sample posters to showcase the development and potential of this media. Howard Liberman was one of the artists he commissioned; here’s his contribution for that issue:

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And here is a poster Liberman created for the OWI.

1943 --- United We Win Poster by Howard Liberman --- Image by © CORBIS

Liberman worked with color photography, too, which is a sub-collection at the Library of Congress, less known than the black and white. Color photography was available, but more expensive to process and for media publishers to print.

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Howard Liberman was dispatched to Gloucester in September of 1942. His photographs show a clear emphasis on WWII dominant coverage, sometimes with an FSA take.  The titles on Liberman’s OWI photos often lead with a heading. For Gloucester, many images have caption leads that begin with the patriotic category: VICTORY FOOD FROM AMERICAN WATERS.

In Gloucester, Howard Liberman spent a time on the docks and out with the crew of the OLD GLORY.

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His captions seldom include surnames of the portrait subjects. They do have lengthy– sometimes general, sometimes quite specific– descriptions to support the category heading.

There are action and portrait shots of the crew catching rosefish during an Old Glory voyage.

“Victory food from American waters. At the docks in Gloucester, Massachusetts, crew members prepare their trawler for a week’s voyage. Most of the fishermen in the city come from a line of fishermen that dates back for centuries.”

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“Victory food from American waters. Immediately after being caught rosefish are shoveled into the hold for packing the ice. Once called “goldfish” because of their brilliant color, the fish are finding a ready market because of their manifold uses–as food for humans, as fish meal and fish oil.”

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“Crew members throw overboard excess ice from Old Glory’s hold. Fishmen allow a proportion of one ton of ice to three tons of fish. When the catch is unusually large as on this trip, some ice is removed to make room for the fish.”

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“Victory food from American waters. Decks are covered with tons of rosefish as the Old Glory reaches its capacity load. After two and one half days of fishing, a catch of 85,000 pounds has been hauled in”

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“Tomorrow’s fishermen–young Gloucester boys push wagons of rosefish from the unloading pier to the processing plant where the fish are filleted and frozen…Many of the boys will follow their forefathers and fishermen in New England waters”

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Look for ‘scenes’ such as Captain John Ribiera (surname spelled a couple of ways in the archive) at work and with his wife at home. 1942 census indicates “Oscar (Irene) fishermn Riberio” at 18 Perkins Street.

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Note the picture of “the Pilot at the Wheel” above the stove

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Another reminder to look for exhibits to see vintage prints in person, rather than the low resolution files I’m showing here. Various resolution options are available at the Library of Congress. Besides the formal details, check out the Captain’s eyes!

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Binnacle blinded.

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The “Mother of Good Voyages” statue in Captain John Riberia’s quarters on the fishing trawler “Old Glory”

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There are a couple of Gloucester interiors (deteriorated negatives) of the Gloucester Mariners’ Association; they infer “captains welcome only.” One shows a gentleman playing cribbage; another shows Captain Ben Pine, the man who raced the schooner Gertrud Thebud.

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Joey, beautiful dangerous industry: shoveling fish into the rotary scaler at a fish packing plant.

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For assignments in other towns, typical headings for Liberman categories include:

Americans All; Subcontracting; School Boys in Training; Industrial Safety; Office Equipment Used by WPB; Women at War; Fuel Oil Consumption; Women Workers (see below making flags); Airports (ditto other industries); Military (e.g. Fort Belvoir); African American Aircraft Propeller Workers (ditto other jobs); Shipyard Workers; Bomber Plant Workers; Price Control; Production; Submarine Chasers; and Conversions (from this to look here it is now was a useful WWII product)

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There are more than 50 additional Gloucester photos in the Library of Congress collection, and one Royden Dixon image from 1940. 

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We are fortunate that so many talented artists worked on the FSA/OWI project, that a few visited Gloucester, and that so many folks across the county were willing to participate as subjects (easier during the War)

The municipal employees and the curators and staff who have worked on these collections (over decades) are superstars. Beverly Brannan is the curator of 20th C documentary photography at the Library of Congress.

For the FSA/OWI program, Director Roy Stryker proselytized that photography was perhaps the best tool for analyzing living history. He felt that photography as a fine art form and its gains in technical ease and advances coincided ideally with the timing of the FSA/OWI historical photographic section. He forecast rapid and constant increase in photography use and adapters. He was inspired by individual and private pioneering antecedents (Brady/Civil War, Hines/Russell Sage), and public ones such as the documentary photographs by William Jackson for the Department of the Interior.

Sometimes I think of Stryker’s Section work along a continuum of government spending on exploration that produced great contemporaneous historical records. The journals of Lewis & Clark. The work created by artists who participated in the NASA Art Program. These FSA photographs.

Stryker realized that there were collections of photography building up in municipalities big and small; how they were catalogued and assessed were critical to their use.  Here in Gloucester, the Cape Ann Museum maintains a Historic Photo Collection containing over 100,000 images from 1840s through now. Photography is included among its permanent and temporary exhibits and what’s not on view can be researched at their archives.

GLOUCESTER PHOTOGRAPHY PRE, DURING AND POST FSA/OWI

There were many independent artists as well as staff photographers (local newspapers, businesses such as Gorton’s, etc.) working in photography here in Gloucester. Every decade has wonderful examples such as Herbert Turner, Alice Curtis (and other photographers that Fred Bodin features), and David Cox’s father, Frank L. Cox.

There were numerous visits from staff photographers of major publications like Life, Vogue, National Geographic, and more. Gordon Parks came back at least two more times; a few other celebrated staff photographers that came through include Luis Marden, Eliot Elisofon, Yale Joel, Co Rentmeester and Arthur Schatz.

No- photographic artists who also worked in photography is another long list, and would include Leonard Craske, Emil Gruppe, Philip Reisman, and many others.

Good Morning Gloucester features photography, that’s for sure.

-Catherine Ryan / all photos Library of Congress, FSA/OWI black and white photography collection

CROSS-COUNTRY CHRONICLE Catherine Ryan on Gloucester, MA in landmark FSA/OWI documentary photographs Part 2

 
American Photographer ARTHUR ROTHSTEIN (1915-1985)19 FSA photos in Gloucester, MA, September 1937
Joey recently featured Wallflowers, by Gordon Parks on GMG which reminded me of the road less traveled within the historic collection of photographs archived at the Library of Congress and the New York Public Library. This post is Part 2 in a series on Gloucester images in this legendary Farm Security Administration / Office of War Information (FSA/OWI) collection. You can go back to Part 1 about Gordon Parks and for some background about the program.
Arthur Rothstein is one of Roy Stryker’s elite team of FSA/OWI photographers. There are over 10,000 photos by Rothstein alone in the massive collection. Rothstein became a premier American photo journalist and the Director of LOOK (1947-1971) and Parade magazines.Director Roy Stryker brought recent graduate Arthur Rothstein to WashingtonDC to set up a state of the art dark room for the new Resettlement Administration Historical Section. In his senior year at ColumbiaUniversity, Rothstein had worked with professors Tugwell and Roy Stryker.Rothstein was 20. Stryker had him out in the field almost immediately. The job meant he had to learn how to drive a car.
In May 1936, Rothstein’s South Dakota Badlands drought images caused controversy then, and discussion still. Rothstein’s April 1936 Oklahoma photograph of a father and his two boys fleeing Mother Nature in CimmaronCounty may be the archetypal image of the Dust Bowl.Here are a few examples and flavor of a fraction of Rothstein’s FSA work (broad themes): Mother Nature/Disaster; migrant workers and flight (showing one from MT); Gees Bend; sense of humor.Those images are followed by a few he did in Gloucester. The people are not identified in the Arthur Rothstein Gloucester photos. He’s here in 1937, the same year that the movie adaptation of Captains Courageous is a big hit.

There’s an artist in action, seen from the back. Who is it?

“Migratory workers returning from day’s work. Robstown camp, Texas. Everyday from twenty to thirty cars moving out from the Dakotas pass the Montana Highway Department’s port of entry.”
COLLECTION QUICK FACTS The Farm Security Administration/ Office of War (FSA/OWI)Director throughout = Roy Stryker acting akin to visionary art dealer

Photographers = Pioneers in the field of photo journalism, photography, including Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans, Arthur Rothstein, and GordonParks

Library of Congress FSA/OWI collection = Nearly 280,000 objects as follows: black and white negatives (170,000+); black and white prints (100,000+); color photographs (1600+). New York Public Library has a substantial collection.

1937 Arthur Rothstein: 10,000+ images (FSA/OWI) / 19 images Gloucester.Mostly rural images. For example 1400+ images in MT and less than 40 total for MA

1942 Gordon Parks: 1600+ (FSA/OWI) / 220+ images Gloucester. Gloucester names to search for: Frank Mineo, the Alden, Vito Cannela, Vito Camella, Vito Coppola, Frank Domingos, Gaspar Favozza, Giacomo Frusteri, Vito Giocione, Pasquale Maniscaleo, Anonio Milietello, Anthony Parisi, Franasco Parisi, Dominic Tello, Antonio Tiaro, Lorenzo Scola, the Catherine C; Mary Machado, Isabell and Joseph Lopez, Dorothy and Macalo Vagos, Irene Vagos, Francis Vagos

1942 Howard Liberman: 700+ (FSA/OWI) / 150+ images Gloucester. Gloucester names to search for: John Ribiera and his wife, the vessel Old Glory There are many portraits and most are not identified. Please help.

1940 Dixon: 350+ (FSA/OWI) / one image of Gloucester; headed the lab in DC

Occasionally when Stryker or the artist considered a photograph a reject, he would punch a hole through the negative.

TIMELINE FOR SOME SPECIFIC IMAGE CONTEXT (primarily pre 1950)1900W.E.B. Du Bois receives a gold medal at the 1900 Paris Exposition for curating and collaborating on a major exhibit featuring 500 photographs displaying the present conditions of African Americans

1908-1917

Along with an extensive visual archive, the FSA team was extremely versed and/or required to study images. One example: Lewis Hine, a NYC school teacher and sociologist who stirred American consciences with his photos. Margaret Sage, the widow of railroad magnate, Russell Sage, established an endowment to research social sciences still active today. Hine’s Ellis Island photographs landed a staff position with the Foundation. His work for them produced their first influential impact: the Pittsburgh Survey. From there, Hines was hired by the National Child Labor Committee and his photographs over the next decade were instrumental in changing child labor laws. Also Stieglitz, Charles White, Paul Strand, and many others.

1924

Russel Smith’s North America, Its People and the Resources, Development, and Prospects of the Continent as an Agricultural, Industrial and Commercial Area

1925

Tugwell with Stryker and Thomas Munro: American Economic Life

1931

Hines was hired to photograph the construction of the EmpireStateBuilding. Ironically, despite his importance and direct influence on future photographers, the arc of his career ends with hard times. He was not included with the FSA hires.. The reception of Hines work declined so much that he was forced to sell his house. MoMA rejected his archives. George Eastman House took them in 1951.

1930s/40s

Paul Robeson. Period–International influence.

1931

The continued influence of Margaret Bourke-White. Her professional career took off in 1927. FORTUNE magazine sent her to cover Russia which published Eyes on Russia in 1931.

1932

Huge audience for Mervyn Leroy’s movie I Am A Fugitive from a Chain Gang

1934

FORTUNE magazine sends Margaret Bourke-White to cover the Dust Bowl

1935

Henri Cartier-Bresson exhibits in the US

1935-1937

The Resettlement Administration Historical Section’s photographic project is tasked with documenting the crisis state of rural poverty. The government hires Roy Stryker. Stryker hires the photographers. Many other Federal creative arts programs.

1935

The government sends Dorothea Lange to photograph migrant farm workers in CA. Lange, Walker Evans and Ben Shahn already established careers when hired for the FSA but not household names.

1935

Berenice Abbott Changing New York

1936

In November, LIFE magazine’s large-scale, photo dominant iteration is first published. LIFE sold more than 13 million copies per week

1936

The Plow that Broke the Plains, Pare Lorentz with Pauls Strand, Steiner, others

1937

The movie adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s Captain’s Courageous is a huge hit.

1937

FSA/OWI Arthur Rothstein is sent to Gloucester. Depression era movie audiences purchased 60 million tickets per week.

1937

LOOK magazine starts publishing bi-weekly

1937

You Have Seen Their Faces, photo-book collaboration by Erskine Caldwell and Margaret Bourke White is wildly successful so much so that it pushes back the publication of Let Us Now Praise Famous Men by James Agee and Walker Evans (1941)

1937

The Resettlement Administration’s Historic Section folds into the Farm Security Administration (FSA). Stryker expands this photographic survey of Depression Era America, while publicizing the work of the FSA

1937/1939

Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men is published in 1937. The movie adaptation opens 1939.

1938

FSA group exhibit at the International Photographic Salon, Grand Central Palace, New York featured a selection of bleak but respectful images. Reviews felt that the photographers avoided negative stereotypes.

The tone of the exhibit was so influential that it was oft repeated. Stryker felt that well over ½ the images in the collection were affirmative and positive.

1938

Richard Wright hired for the WPA Writers Project guidebook for New York and wrote the part on Harlem. He received a Guggenheim Fellowship and was able to finish Native Son.

1938

Architectural Forum introduces Frank Lloyd Wright to American audiences. Managing Editor Ruth Goodhue was the first female at the head of any Time Inc publication, and a colleague of Stryker’s. Stryker credits RUTH GOODHUE* for propelling his encyclopedic quest to catalogue every day life with what sounds now like “a distinct sense of place”, 2014 placemaking terms. Her advice to Stryker echoes the later work of Jane Jacobs** “The Death and Life of Great American Cities”, the Main Street movement, and our current cultural district designations. Thirty years later Stryker credited numerous people, but he repeats his credit to Goodhue several times. Looking back, by the time 1940 rolls along, it’s Stryker’s creed. It’s thrilling how one inspirational comment can engender such a unique mobilization!

1939

An American Exodus, photo book collaboration by Dorothea Lange and Taylor

1939

FSA photos exhibited at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City

1939/1940

Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath is published and is phenomenally successful. The 1940 movie adaptation is a blockbuster, too.

1941

Richard Wright and Edwin Rosskam produce Twelve Million Black Voices. Migration coverage went to the city.

1941

Movies Citizen Kane (trailer 1940) and How Green Was My Valley

1942

Artists for Victory

1942

Gordon Parks’ position within Stryker’s department is underwritten with the support of a Julius Rosenwald Fellowship. Rosenwald was a partner in Sears Roebuck. His foundation operated from 1917-1948 with the mandate to focus on the well-being of mankind and with a particular education outreach for African Americans. The endowment was to be spent down completely and it’s estimated that 70 million was given. Of particular note, from 1928-1948 open-ended grants were given to African American writers, researches, and intellectuals and the list is a Who’s Who of 1930s and 1940s. This is precisely the type awarded to Gordon Parks so that he could work at the famous FSA program.

1942

Gordon Parks in Gloucester May and June. Howard Liberman in Gloucester, September.

1943

May Four Freedoms Day; October 20 America in the War exhibits

1942-45

FSA absorbed by the Office of War Information (OWI), focus shifts to the domestic impact of WWII

1955

Edward Steichen’s Family of Man exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art includes many of the photos

1962

The Bitter Years 1935-1941: Rural America Seen by Photographers of the FSA

Edward Steichen’s last and seminal exhibit as Director of the Museum of Modern Art is dedicated to Stryker and the FSA photographers. As with other FSA themed exhibits, photographs by Gordon Parks– and many other artists–were not included, still aren’t included.

1990/2000s

Gees Bend quilts

*Roy Stryker on Ruth Goodhue

“Ruth Goodhue was the managing editor of “Architectural Forum.” Her father designed the very famous Nebraska capitol, a very unusual building. She was another one on my circuit. But I stopped to have breakfast with her, she was over at that time in the Chrysler Building with the Life complex there and I had breakfast with her and I went up to her office. She was the one that said — I’ll tell you this story because it’s how I reacted so often — “Roy Stryker, I wonder if all towns of 5,000 are alike, because they have the same boiler plate, they have the same radio programs, and so on?” Well, I had to go on a trip and when I got back I had an outline on small towns.” Also:

“She was a charming woman and very bright and very proactive. And she said to me, “Are all little towns in America alike because they read the same boiler plate, listen to the same radios on the air, and because they eat the same breakfast food?” Proactive questions, just what I needed. I have a very bad habit of writing memos to myself; I love to put things down, write a page after page and take it home. By the time I got back to Washington, the photographers hadn’t been taking pictures of the little towns they went through. So then there grew an outline — a perfect bombardment of twenty-five pages, I guess. Did you stay overnight? Let’s begin to cover the main street of America, you know, just to see what the heck occurs on it.”

**Jane Jacobs

As writer and associate editor of The Iron Age, Jane Jacobs published “30,000 Unemployed and 7000 Empty Houses in Scranton, NeglectedCity”, an article which brought attention to her home town. This led to more freelance work and in 1943 a job writing features for the US Office of War Information (OWI). After 1945 and into the 1950s, Jacobs wrote and was editor for the State Department’s magazine branch, primarily for Amerika Illustrated, a Russian language magazine. In the public sector she went on to Architectural Forum. I wonder if Goodhue was a mentor for Jacobs or if they had any overlap. I certainly consider the FSA/OWI files as formative for her ideas — and Goodhue influenced that program.

Gloucester connections:

Charles Olson

In New York City 1937, Charles Olson was hired by the government to work for the American Council of Nationalities Services, an agency that offered support programs for immigrants and refugees. He also wrote for the Office of War Information from 1942 – May of 1944. The timing overlaps with Jane Jacobs somewhat. Gloucester writer, Edward Dahlberg, introduced Olson to Alfred Stieglitz in New York City back in 1937.

Goodhue and Cram

Ruth Goodhue’s father, Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue, was a famous architect. Through his friendships with Ernest Fenollosa of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and others in the orb of the Boston Society of Arts and Crafts (1897), he met architect Ralph Adams Cram. Goodhue and Cram partnered to form a successful architectural firm, in business together for over twenty years. They had great solo careers, too.

Cram designed the Atwood Home, Gallery-on-the-Moors, in East Gloucester, and preliminary plans for the towers on Hammond Sr’s property, and the inspiration or more for Stillington Hall and others.

-Catherine Ryan / all photos Library of Congress, FSA/OWI black and white photography collection