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The Fields family, Hale County, Alabama, Summer 1936.

To build broad public support for its New Deal relief programs, the administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt encouraged documentation of the human suffering caused by the Depression. From 1935 to 1943, photographers working for several federal government agencies, principally the Farm Security Administration (FSA), traveled the country and produced the most enduring images of the Great Depression. This Walker Evans picture of a poor rural family was part of that massive documentation effort. Wishing to convey both suffering and dignity, FSA photographers searingly presented conditions to the American public, selecting effective compositions and poses influenced by advertising and mass-market magazine formats. These photographic icons of the era were widely circulated in the popular press, including Time, Look, and Life magazines, and they appeared in major museum exhibits and best-selling books.

Source: Walker Evans, 1936—Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.