Roy Stryker (1893–1975)


As a member of Franklin Roosevelt's Brains Trust, Rexford Tugwell organized the Resettlement Administration to address the mounting economic problems faced by people living in America's heartland. This agency later became known as the Farm Security Administration, and it was to provide "rehabilitation loans and resettlement opportunities to farmers impoverished by drought, soil erosion, and the effects of the Great Depression."

In 1935, Stryker followed his mentor's path to Washington, D.C. and was appointed head of the FSA's Historical Section, where he would direct the photographic documentation of the agency's activities. Over the ensuing years, Stryker would attract and assign some of America's most renowned photographers to document the effects of the Great Depression on people in the hardest hit areas of the country.

Although Stryker was not a photographer himself, he promoted using the camera as a tool to document society. His work, especially in the early years of the FSA, was to enhance the public's perception of the federal aid programs for the destitute. Stryker led the project from 1935 to 1943 and was responsible for launching the careers of photographers such as Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans and Gordon Parks, among others, and for building an unmatched photographic legacy of life in America.