I was interested in people not only as images, but also as human beings. In stories that they would tell me or interviews I had with them. It seemed to be it was an important part of what I was trying to communicate. — Jack Delano
The stock market crash of 1929 unemployed 25 percent of the American workforce. Millions were homeless. The farmlands of Middle America were destroyed by unforgiving, and poorly timed, droughts. Simply to survive, people became nomadic, wandering from place to place, looking for work. As part of the New Deal by Franklin Roosevelt, The Farm Security Administration (FSA) was created in 1937 by the Department of Agriculture to assist poor farmers and migrant workers during the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression.
There was a special Historical Section within the FSA created to document this national concern and supply photographs to newspapers, magazines, and books. Headed up by Roy Emerson Stryker from 1935-1942, a photographic troupe within this Historical Section created 77,000 B&W and color images (now housed in the Library of Congress). This group included a number of now-famous photographers including Walker Evans and Dorothea Lange. Jack Delano, who contributed significantly to this collection of images, was perhaps lesser known than Evans and Lange, but no less influential, particularly to the art of color photography.
Stryker hired Delano as one of the FSA photographers in 1940. Like many of the FSA photographers, he traveled throughout the United States (including Puerto Rico) documenting the American way of life through its toughest economic period. Roy Stryker also gave Delano very specific photographic assignments, including one of his most famous involving the country’s train system. Jack Delano died in Puerto Rico in 1997.