Unlike the staff of the Federal Writers' Project, which was based in individual states and comprised of local residents, the Farm Security Administration photographers were an itinerant group. One of the organizational difficulties of the project was the fact that its photographers were so often spread around the far reaches of the country. Stryker maintained close contact with them while they were in the field, in order to keep them abreast of project priorities and the other photographers' assignments, to handle technical difficulties, and to facilitate the transfer of materials.

Most of their letters were directed to his home address, since it took a while for mail to be processed through the bureaucratic machine, though they did rely on telegrams and other, quicker forms of communication when necessary.

It is clear from Stryker and Marion Post Wolcott's correspondence how much they collaborated in determining the agenda of her trips. One also gets a great sense of how alienating it was to be in the field alone, and how keeping in close contact with the staff in Washington could feel sometimes like the photographer's only anchor. Though they had their fair share of bureaucratic communication, Stryker and Post Wolcott had some lively exchanges. There can be no doubt that they were two dynamic and strong willed individuals:

- From Post Wolcott to Stryker, January 27, 1940, Telegram. Surely one of the more bizarre and amusing historical sources I've encountered.

- From Stryker to Post Wolcott, January 13th, 1939. She's in Belle Glade, he's in Washington. This letter has been widely quoted because of his controversial instructions to her on how she should dress in the "wilds of the South."

- From Post Wolcott to Stryker, circa January 18th, 1939. She writes back, launching into a good-natured (mostly) response to his lecture.




Juliet Gorman, May 2001


If you find Marion Post Wolcott's voice intriguing (as I did), you might want to familiarize yourself with her biography.

If you've done that already, have you covered the critical ground of thinking about what documentary photography meant specifically in the 1930s?

When you are done working through the material on the history of the FSA, critical perspectives to bring to FSA photography, and some context on Marion Post Wolcott's life, you should move on to reflections about narrative in FSA photography.