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Bearing Witness: Documentary Photography of the WPA and FSA Photographs from the Bank of America Collection

An Art in our Communities® Virtual Exhibition

"One hundred years from now my administration will be known for its art, not for its relief. — President Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Bearing Witness: Documentary Photography of the 1930s explores the extraordinary, wide-ranging legacy of images created by photographers who worked under the support of innovative New Deal programs created by the Roosevelt administration during the 1930s. The exhibition features the works of Berenice Abbott, Ben Shahn, Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, Russell Lee, Arthur Rothstein, Jack Delano, Marion Post Wolcott, Edward Steichen and Horace Bristol. Curated entirely from the Bank of America Collection, Bearing Witness reveals both celebrated and lesser-known images and highlights the successful results of the interrelationship between artist, government agency and the public.

The exhibition opens with a brief selection of the photographs of Berenice Abbott and Ben Shahn, who produced works funded by the WPA.

The core of the exhibition is the body of work created by the artists who were employed by the Farm Security Administration (FSA). Charged by the federal government to build a visual record of the impact of hard times in rural America, the photographers created indelible depictions of resilience in the face of poverty and disaster. Photographs such as Arthur Rothstein’s Fleeing a Dust Storm, 1936, and Dorothea Lange’s Migrant Mother, 1936, have become icons through which later generations have been able to sense what those who lived through the Great Depression and Dust Bowl must have experienced. In later years, the FSA was folded into the Office of War Information (OWI), and noted photographers went on to document America’s recovery and its mobilization for the Second World War.

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To listen to an audio tour of exhibition highlights, please click on the  audio  icon.