They weren’t too beaten down

Posted by | January 18, 2018


Sunday school picnic. Much of the food brought into abandoned mining town of Jere, West Virginia by “neighboring folk” from other parishes. There is a great deal of “hard feelings” and many fights between Catholics and Protestants. Miners as a whole are not very religious, many not having any connections with church, though they may have.
1938 Sept.

Marion Post Wolcott, FSA photographer

“My first assignments were very close to Washington. I think one of the first ones, if not the very first, was in the coal fields in West Virginia. That was a very short assignment, of course. And it was a very interesting one, too. I found the people not as apathetic as I had expected they might be. They weren’t too beaten down. Of course, many of them were but they were people with hope and some of them still had a little drive, although, of course, their health was so bad it was telling . . . .

“I think [all the FSA photographers] did have a social consciousness definitely, perhaps more than some people have but I think they were all — well, they were all interested in the plight of human beings and in the programs of the New Deal, and the remedial programs that the New Deal and the FSA were trying to do, I think that all these people had a lot of vigor and energy and were sensitive to their surroundings.

“[The Farm Security Administration] was one of the few places you could go where you felt that your pictures would be used and seen and that you could be honest in your reporting, whether with a camera or any other device. With your captioning you felt that any exhibits that they produced were definitely propaganda but you believed in them and you felt that they were honest, you wanted to slant them — if you would call it slanting it — or they were slanted, but so is any good program, an effective one.

“I never had worked in the field with handling both the captioning and the traveling and the sending back of the material, and not having my own darkroom. I wasn’t sure I’d like that, and the arrangement of sending the stuff back and having them develop and print it, this worried me a little bit, but it turned out very well because Roy [Stryker, Historical Section chief, Information Division, FSA] gave us a great deal of freedom in that respect.”

Interview with Marion Post Wolcott
Conducted by Richard Doud
at Artist’s Home in Mill Valley, California
January 18, 1965


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