RUSSELL IS A FAMOUS PHOTOGRAPH-ETHNOGRAPH AND GENIUS DOCUMENTARY PHOTO
On a hot summer day, a boy was born in the family of Adeline Werner and Burton Lee, who was destined to become a great photographer. However, until the time when Russell took the camera in his hands, a long time had passed. The first famous pictures he took after 30 years. Worked Russell Lee in the style of a documentary photo. Also valuable are ethnographic pictures of the master.
The hard way becoming a photographer
Russell Lee was born July 21, 1903 in Ottawa. Family life with his parents did not work, and his father left the family. Russell at that time was only 5 years old. After the divorce, the father did not maintain contact with his son. After 5 years, the boy was expected by another tragedy: his 10-year-old mother was killed in front of his eyes. This left an indelible mark on the soul. Guardianship over the teenager took relatives.
The genius of photography was endowed with outstanding intelligence and creativity. He studied hard, showed interest in chemistry. After graduating from the Culver Military Academy, Russell enrolled at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania. He studied chemical engineering, received a degree in Chemical Engineering. It would seem that his future is predetermined. However, he left the science and took the post of head of a roofing factory, located in Kansas City. This work brought little pleasure to Russell. He decided to fulfill his old dream and become an artist.
Leaving the post of head of the factory, Lee made several trips that were supposed to inspire him to create paintings. All landscapes, which over time Russell proposed to transfer to the canvas, he filmed on camera. This process so fascinated him that the master never missed the brush. From that moment on he did not let the camera out of his hands.
Upon his return to New York, Russell Lee began to master the photo. He shot city landscapes, improving his technique. The year 1936 can be considered a turning point. The photographer learned from Ben Shan of the existence of a large-scale project, which today is known as the Farm Security Administration (FSA). The government invited photographers to document rural life in America through photography. By a happy coincidence, during this period, Karl Mailans, involved in the project, moved to Life, and Russell was taken to the vacant spot.
Russell Lee worked on the project for a long time, spending most of his time on the road. He visited Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michegan and many other states. The photographer managed to find the right angle and display in pictures the features of life in small communities. His work gives a clear picture of the characteristics of life and living conditions of the time.
Lee, unlike many photographers involved in the project, was not interested in individual details. He wanted to convey the big picture, and he did it. In the pictures you can see people doing their daily activities in their homes and workplaces. The genius of documentary photography managed to convey the positive attitude of the population, despite the difficult period in the country.
After some time, the documentary collection collected as part of the FSA project was called the greatest in the world, and Lee’s work from San Augustin and Pi-Town, made in 1939 and 1940, became the hallmark of the photographer already recognized in specialized circles.
In 1942, the government involved Russell Lee in another project, in which he took more than 600 shots. Many of them later became world famous. The photographer documented the eviction of Japanese Americans from the West Coast. When working on this series of images, Russell was able to convey the inner state of the families that were awaited by uncertainty.
Professional activities of Russell Lee
Photos of Russell Lee rarely fell on the covers of magazines. He dedicated himself to government projects. After finishing work at the FSA, the photographer joined the ATC (Air Transport Command). Here the photographer documented the airfields through which the soldiers were supplied during the Second World War. After graduation, Russell worked in the Ministry of the Interior. He created a series of photos in the coal mines. His pictures showed the working conditions of people and depicted the miners in the process of employment. In just 2 years of work, he created more than 4,000 images.
In parallel, during this period, the genius of documentary photography formed a collection dedicated to the Pentecostal church, located in the coal camp.
After retiring from the Department of the Interior, Russell worked on a commercial project for an oil company under Stryker. In 1947, the photographer moved to Austin, where he continued to work, but for his own pleasure. In 1965, the rector of the University of Texas offered Russell to take a course in photography, which he did for 9 years. In 1974, he finished teaching and retired. The photographer died in 1986.