Picturing Texas: The FSA-OWI Photographers zn the Lone Star State, z935-1943. By
Robert L. Reid. (Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1995. Pp. 20o8.
Acknowledgments, introduction, index. ISBN o-87611-140-1. $49.95.)
This study of the photographic documentation of Texas under the auspices of
the Farm Security Administration and the Office of War Information from 1935
to 1943 is an image-filled and historically informative resource on the state.
Robert Reid includes the work of all photographers who worked under Roy
Stryker's direction in the state, including Arthur Rothstein, Dorothea Lange,
John Vachon, and Jack Delano, as well as lesser-known images taken by Fritz
Henle and Howard Hollem for the Office of Emergency Management. Reid
gives special attention to Russell Lee, who completed more documentation than
any other FSA-OWI photographer. Organized to reflect the diversity of the state
and the photographic assignments, the book includes sections on the Dust Bowl,
the FSA projects in Texas, the triumvirate of the Texas economy (cotton, live-
stock, and oil), leisure and recreation, towns and cities, migratory workers in
South Texas, Lee's extensive documentation of the community of San Augustine
and of the pecan shellers of San Antonio, and the war years.
Although Reid provides a lengthy introduction on the FSA and OWI in which
he addresses recent criticism of the photographs as biased and sentimental pro-
paganda, this discussion does not overwhelm the book. The organization of the
book succeeds in providing an economic and cultural overview of the changing
nature of Texas in the twentieth century. Making the transition from an agricul-
tural economy heavily damaged by the Dust Bowl, the state emerged as a leader
in the defense industry and as the national center of military training during the
war years. Reid should be complimented for not shirking the difficult issue of
Texas's segregated past; instead, he uses the photographs to convey the com-
plexity of the issue. His chapters on the migratory workers in South Texas and
the pecan shellers of San Antonio discuss how a "segregated caste system ... was
a fundamental component of the economic system of Texas" (p. 171). This work
is one of the most successful state studies of FSA-OWI documentation. It is rec-
ommended for all scholars of photographic history and Texas history.
Amon Carter Museum
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 99, July 1995 - April, 1996. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101217/. Accessed January 28, 2015.